1 John, Part 7
1 John chapter 3, these last couple verses, what you’re going to find out is this section of scripture is very sobering section of scripture. I want to approach really with as much clarity as Lord provides me to share with you because this section of scripture we’re going to look at today is really the foundation of Christianity. Clarity on this matters. When people don’t understand what is communicated in this section of scripture and how pertinent it is, it’s where you get a lot of false beliefs developing off of Christianity. This section, I would say, for me, is sort of the most paramount theologically in understanding what 1 John communicates to us in following after Christ with our lives.
If you remember what we focused on, especially over the last couple weeks, is that, starting in chapter 2 to chapter 4, this is the meat of what 1 John is about as followers of Jesus. He started off, 1 John chapter 1, John recognizing in our lives that in the Church there is a mixture of people, people that really belong to Jesus, people that might be seeking not belonging to Jesus, and people that really don’t care about Jesus but just want to be in a community. He really wants people to understand what it means to follow after God. He talks about people that are part of us, but they go out from us, but they weren’t really of us. What John is thinking about in this story is how God is light, God is truth, God wants you to be righteous and not lawless, and what it looks like to be a true follower of Jesus, in light of all of that, and one day all of us are going to meet God face to face. When we meet him, John says it like this, “That he wants you to be confident.”
If you remember of the beginning of 1 John, what he talked about, he really laid out who he was and the authority that he carries. Remember, John is the last living Apostle as he writes this. All the other Apostles had been martyred for their faith. When John starts this letter, he reminds us that he has seen Jesus, he has heard from Jesus, he has even touched Jesus, he has been a witness first hand to everything that Christ has proclaimed and he says to us that, “God is light, he is pure.” What he is about to do now is to summarize all of what it means to pursue Jesus with our lives. He summarizes Christianity in really two commands. These commands as followers of Christ impact what you believe and how you behave. In 1 John chapter 3, verse 22, the end of verse 22, this is how he picks it up. “We keep his commands and do what pleases him and this is his commandment.” John is saying, “Look, people think about different religious beliefs.”
In his time, he’s combating against Gnosticism where these people are coming into the church, they’re saying, “Look, you have this truth proclaimed to you, but there’s this extra secret knowledge that you need.”
John’s like, “No, let’s just cut to the chase here. In Christianity, there is this command that God wants you to follow or these commands God wants you to follow and here are the commands. The first command is not about what you do, but the first command is about what’s been done.” I should say it like this, “What you believe will determine how you behave.” He’s setting the precedent for not what you do, but what’s been done. Look at this. This is the commandment, here it is, “That we believe in the name of the son, Jesus Christ.” Then, he says the second, “And love one another just as he commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments, abides in God and God in him. By this, we know that he abides in us by the Spirit whom he has given us.” John summarizes all of Christianity this way. It’s not about what you do, but it’s about what you trust. Base of the Christianity is not about what you do, but it’s about what’s been done by the grace of God for you.
He makes this very clear in the very beginning by saying, “We believe in the name of his son, Jesus Christ.” Name has to do with identity of an individual. Today, we think about names, it’s just what … we asked the question, “What did you mama give you?” Then, you say your name, right? But, in Jesus’ day, names represented identity. In fact, Christian practice was common to rename someone based on the spiritual gifts that they demonstrated in Jesus. You think one of the Apostle Paul’s companions was Barnabas, he was an encourager. Who else is going to do ministry next to Paul, who was known as a murderer, other than one who thinks optimistically about what Jesus could do in his life, right? Names in Jesus’ day represented identity.
Jesus’ name isn’t just like his mom said, “You know, you look like a Jesus, I’ll call you Jesus.” But, Jesus Christ represents the identity of who he was, the saving anointed one. That’s what Jesus’ name means, the saving King, and Jesus pursues us.
What are we trusting in? This word, believe in, literally means to trust in. To take anything that you trusted in, in life, that you thought was secure, that your hope was resting in; stop hoping in those things because they don’t last and rather, trust in what does endure. What we trust in the identity of who Jesus is. He is this rescuing King. Our salvation, our security is based on what this King has done for us, not what we do. Religion gives this idea that you climb this mountain to show to God that you are lovable. Rather, what Jesus said is in the midst of sin, Jesus pursues us, Jesus comes after us and Jesus rescues us. John is saying, “Here’s the basis of Christianity. It’s not what you do, it’s what’s been done.”
The second commandment then is to love others. When we see the ways that Jesus has pursued us, the way that Jesus loves us; we recognize that God cares about people and God wants to reach us right where we are. God loves your heart, God wants to transform that heart, and God is in pursuit of you. When see this King on this rescue mission to change our lives and we belong to that King, we begin to demonstrate that in our world. It tells us in 1 Corinthians chapter 6, verse 20, “You have been bought with a price. That King came and he gave it all.” He says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “You have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.” Meaning, God doesn’t just save you to leave you there, but now, this King, who’s come to present thing Kingdom to you, calls you a citizen of this Kingdom and want you to represent this King. You’ve been bought with a price, glorify God with your body.
When you think about Christianity, and we say it very simplistically in this church, in Matthew chapter 28, verse 19 and 20, the last statement Jesus gave to his disciples before he ascended, “Go into this world and make disciples.” ABC, our desire is to see disciples made, to see people become fully devoted followers of Jesus so that you can become fully devoted leaders for Jesus. You want to be a good leader, be a good follower. When you think about what Christianity is about, the representation is this, coming to know God.
Paul said it this way in Philippians chapter 3, “I count it all as rubbish, for one pursuit, that I may know him.” Paul abandons all of his religious pursuit in life for one simple cause, to know Jesus. To know him, and then in knowing him, to make him known. When we talk about what Christianity is, we can really summarize it this simplistically, to trust in Christ with your life, as this King has given you his. Then, to love others through this King and his Kingdom because this King loves you.
Some people have looked at this and think, “Can it really be that simple?” Brother, the truth is that God’s grace is that sufficient. There’s nothing you can add to what Jesus has already done because Jesus has paid it all. Some people in the simplicity of what that is, have determined that they want to pervert the message of what the Gospel is. When you use the word gospel, I think it’s important for us to understand that the Gospel, the word gospel literally means a proclamation. It’s a proclamation of victory, saying there’s really nothing that you can add to it because the King has already come, conquered and won. Some will look at the Christian message, and you can see this beginning early in the New Testament, they doubt rather in the sufficiency of what Christ has done for them and they feel like they need to add to the message of what the Gospel is. In doing so, it’s no longer a good news, it’s no longer the Gospel because they begin to pervert it and they add man’s works on top of it. John, being aware of this, begins to address this idea.
Some of us, even when you study the Apostle Paul when he went around early in the Church and he began to proclaim the Gospel, it tells us early on in his ministry, the Jews would follow him around and they would say, “Look, that’s good that you have this message of Jesus, but really, you need to add the Old Testament Law to it.” I mean that’s the reason, I think, in your Bible, you have a lot of what the book of Romans is and the book of Galatians. If you just study the first three chapters of Romans, you’ll see that the thing that Paul is primary addressing is the Law and how it relates to us today.
People will look at the Old Testament Law and say, “Do we have to live this? Why do we not obey the 613 Commandments of the Old Testament Law? Why is Jesus alone sufficient?” That’s a good question, right? The Old Testament Law, when you think about it, the Old Testament Law in itself, it’s holy. God gave us the Old Testament Law and it represents his nature, therefore it’s holy. But, when you think about categorically how we even refer to the sections of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, even in the representation, there is a distinction worthy of talking about. Why do we talk about one part of the Bible being Old Testament and one part of the Bible being New Testament? The idea of testament can also be translated covenant. What we’re really saying is old covenant and new covenant. Now, you can’t have a new covenant until the old covenant is fulfilled.
What we’re talking about and even acknowledging that the Old Testament is old covenant, New Testament is new covenant; is something has taken place in between these two covenants to fulfill them. What is the old covenant? Well, it’s the Old Testament Law, the 613 Commandments. Who fulfilled the old covenant? Jesus. Matthew chapter 5, verse 17, Jesus says, “I came not to abolish the Law, but to,” what, “fulfill it.” Jesus came to fulfill it. When you study the purpose of the old covenant, the old covenant, Old Testament, the Law that God established; the purpose of the old covenant Law wasn’t to save you, it wasn’t to free you. To look at Jesus and say he’s not sufficient, we need to add Laws to find our selves to be approved before God is to apply something to us that wasn’t even intended to ever free us.
In fact, when you look in books like Romans and Galatians, which is, told you Paul laid out because of the conflict of seeing Jews try to tell Christians that you need to insert Law into your living or some Jews even believing in they need to hold to the Old Testament Law. Look at some of the things Paul said here. “Now, we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the law,” look at this, “so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable before God. For by the works of the Law, no human being will be justified in his sight,” meaning looks right to God, “since through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Look what he says about the law in Romans 4:15, “For the Law bring wrath.”
What Paul is saying is the Law doesn’t free you. The only thing religious Law does is condemn you. What religion does will tell you when you failed. Law does that. When you leave here and you pulled over too fast like cops pull you over not to tell you great at obeying the law, but they tell you when you break the law. Laws work to tell you when you break them. They don’t free you, they condemn you. To apply any law to what Jesus says is, one, to say Jesus is insufficient and, two, it’s adding condemnation to our head.
What Paul is acknowledging here is the purpose of the old covenant Law isn’t about freedom, it’s about condemnation. In addition to that, the book of Galatians, he says it like this, Galatians 3:24, “So then the law,” the reason the law was given, “was our guardian until Christ came in order that we might be justified by faith.” What makes us righteous? It’s not living the law, it’s faith. Who’s that faith in? Well, John told us, “Believe in Jesus, in the name of what Christ has done for you.” But he says, “Now, that faith is come, we are no longer under,” what, “the guardian,” right, which is the? The law.
You look at the Old Testament, the purpose of the Old Testament Law, not to free but to condemn and it’s to show us, in Galatians 3, it’s to show our need for Jesus. It’s to help us to recognize as we look at this law. We’re like, “Man, I keep messing up. I need something to really rescue me. WHat’s going to rescue me?” That was the purpose of the Law, so that you recognize in Law, “I feel condemned. I’m not perfect. What can I do?”
Now, he’s saying, “Now, the answer is come by faith. You’re no longer under guardian, but now rest in Jesus.” Do you see the sufficiency of Christ in this being proclaimed through what the Law intended? Not as freedom, but to show your need for Jesus. Knowing we were condemned, Jesus comes and he looks at the Law. He realizes that we aren’t perfect, but he is. He comes not to abolish the old covenant because God gave that covenant, but rather to fulfill its demands by going to the cross and his perfection and taking all of the punishment upon himself. Jesus came to fulfill it.
Look what it says in Hebrews 8:13, “And speaking of a new covenant, it’s acknowledging now that Jesus is brought in a new covenant.” It says, “Jesus makes the first one obsolete.” Jesus obliterated. Word can be translated as obliterated. He obliterated the Old Testament Law.
Do we obey the old covenant? No. I don’t wake up in the morning and say, “How can I obey 613 laws.” There may be things I do that reflect the old covenant like I haven’t murdered anyone, right? But, it’s not because I wake up in the morning and want to reflect the old covenant. It’s because sometimes the new covenant aligns with Christ.
In the new covenant, remember what it’s about. “What do we do now if we don’t obey the Old Testament Law? Do we just live however we want?” People worry about that. “What are you going to do if there’s no law then? If you don’t say you’ll obey all these laws of the Old Testament, do you just wake up and do whatever you want? You can just live like hell and Jesus rescues you? Is that really what it’s about?”
Paul makes an argument in Romans. He says, “What shall we do now? Should we go on sinning that grace may abound?” He said, “May it never be.” Remember 1 Corinthians 6:20, “You’ve been bought with a price.” The value of Jesus, it’s been given for you. You’ve been bought with a price. Glorify God with your body. Jesus has pursued you and Jesus wants to know you.
What do we then in new covenant? Well, John said it for us. We trust in Jesus for the new covenant frees us from the wrath of God, so we’re walking in Christ, we’re believing in him, we’re hoping in him. Then, it tells us how to respond in that belief, we lean all our trust, is to love others, is to care for others around us. I mean God calls us to minister in this world. Ministry’s not about accomplishing religious law. Ministry is designed for the purpose of reaching hearts of people, which God desires to do. The way God desires to do that is through his people that are now empowered by his Spirit.
As a Christian, we don’t wake up and follow religious Law. Rather, what the New Testament says to us now is in new covenant, God promises his Spirit. This is the command he tells to believers now, “I say walk by the Spirit.” He doesn’t say, “Wake up and obey Law.” He says, “Now, rather, here’s what you’re going to do, walk by the spirit.” This idea of walk literally means be surrendered to how the Spirit of God wants to move. Surrender your life to this King that pursued you since he is a king, he has a kingdom. You belong to him as a citizen. Now, you represent this King as an ambassador. Surrender your life before this King and walk in the Spirit of what this King has sent to you by the Holy Spirit that now indwells you. Walk in the Spirit.
If you want to know what that means to walk in the Spirit, I will tell you read Galatians 5:16 and on. But, look at this, “Walk by the Spirit,” look at this, “you will not gratify the desires of your flesh.” Now, but, in verse 18, “if you are lead by the Spirit,” look at this, “as a Christian being indwelled by the Spirit, if you’re lead by the Spirit,” look what it says, “you are not under the,” what, “law.” Wake up every morning loving God. I don’t mean God arbitrarily like some just figure that’s just ambiguous. I mean Jesus. Love Jesus. In pursuit of that heart, in pursuit of his heart, my heart connected to his heart; I’ll learn to share what his heart is for this world, and which is to love people. I’m not governed by law. I’m walking in the spirit.He even says it like this in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of Christ.”
You know what the Law of Christ is? Jesus said it like this, John 13:34, “A new Commandment I give unto you.” Jesus’ is giving a new Commandment, not because he’s adding to the old Commandment, but because he’s created the new covenant, and the new covenant says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” We bear one another’s burdens because we want to fulfill the Law of Christ, which is in knowing him, we love others.
John recognizes that in that message, the simplicity of what Jesus has done, not the basis of what we do and the freedom of what Christ gives to us that people will come along and pervert the teaching of Christ. You can see it in the life of Paul as he ministers in the New Testament, you can see it in the life of Peter, you can even see it in this Epistle written by John. When gnostics are coming in and saying, “You need secret knowledge, extra knowledge, there’s more to this.”
John’s saying, “No, there’s not.” He follows the idea of 1 John chapter 3 with these next words. This is where he gets a little sobering for us, but he says this, “Beloved,” talking about the Body of Christ, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Test the spirits. Now, this is freaky. You think about this for a minute, I mean in terms of talking about a Holy Spirit, in terms of talking about a human spirit, in terms of talking about spiritual forces; there are dark forces and there are light forces and we can be influenced by both. That is kind of freaky to think about, right?
Let me just start like this. Why is it so important to test the spirits? I mean John’s saying test the spirits. Let’s just ask the question. Why is it so important to test the spirits? Often times, when we think about the spirits like when you think about Satan, in our mind the way that we like to think about Satan in John chapter 10, verse 10, it says this, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. That sounds just like Satan, right?
Then, he juxtaposes that statement with Jesus, but Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
You’re like, “Okay, what’s the Kingdom of Darkness about? It’s about steal, kill and destroy. What’s Jesus about? He’s about life abundant, right?” We think in terms of Satan, we tend to think this way, “I don’t want darkness. It’s evil, steal kill and destroy, right?” You think about what Satan is in our society today, he grows horns, he’s really red, he’s got this nasty tail, he walks around with pitchforks, he’s evil. When we see bad things like that, we run, right?
But, just think about this for a moment. Satan shows up in the Garden of Eden. I think it’s true, Satan wants to kill, steal and destroy, right? Spiritual forces of darkness, they want to steal, kill and destroy. But, Satan shows up in the Garden of Eden, and if you know the story of Garden of Eden, they eat a piece of fruit and from that point, all of destruction, all the curse of what we seen in sin and all of this world was born. But, when Satan showed up, did he say, “Steal, kill, and destroy”? Is that how he presented himself? I mean who’s really going to believe that? If Satan shows up this morning and he wants to influence for bad, and he talks to us, he’s like, “Everyone, go out, steal, kill and destroy,” right?
I mean who’s going to be like, “Man, that sounds like a great idea, right? Let’s do this. This guy’s on to something.” No one’s going to follow that. If Satan appears before us and he’s say’s that, no one’s going to listen to that. It’s like, “Dude, you’ve got horns. We need halos if we’re going to do anything, right?” Satan doesn’t work that way.
When Satan showed up to the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, he didn’t come saying, “Steal, kill and destroy.” What did he do? In Genesis chapter 3, verse 1, all he did was ask a question. He looked at Eve and said, “Surely, God didn’t say not to at the tree. Did he?” Satan didn’t come teaching kill, steal and destroy. You know what Satan did? All he did was twist the truth because Satan knows if he can get you to buy into a lie, destruction happens.
That’s why John’s saying test the spirits. Spirits don’t come with these horns, all these bells and whistles warning you. They come under the deception of something that may look good but isn’t godly. It’s like old covenant Law. Old covenant Law can look good. I mean there’s a lot of good things that God tells people to do, but you know what it completely does? Undermines the sufficiency of Jesus in your life. While it may look good, it leads the soul to destruction because law will never free your heart. Jesus does. Test the spirits.
You know it’s probably a more accurate way of looking at Satan, Ezekiel 28 in describing Satan, just think about this, how Eve would’ve seen Satan, it says, “You are the signet of perfection,” talking about Satan, “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty, You were in Eden, the Garden of God. Every precious stone was your covering.” Does that sound like pitchfork?
Even in the New Testament, it says, 2 Corinthians 11:4, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
What John is saying to us when he says, “Test the spirit,” is the deception of spirits is that spiritual feeling, it can feel good and still not be of God. It can look good but completely hate God. I’ve told us this before, but Satan has no problem with good, the problem’s with God. Even if you read the mission statement. If you look on your phone, what’s the mission statement of the Satanic Temple? It’s to do good to all men. They’ve got no problem with good, it’s with God because Satan understands it’s God that sets you free.
John is looking at the simplicity of what the message is because of what Jesus has done for you by the extravagance of his grace. He’s saying to us, “Look, don’t let go of this message because the temptation in your life is to gravitate towards other things and try to add to it.” But, the know that hope of your heart is just to rest in the goodness of what Jesus had done.
Rather than picture Satan like this, one who comes to steal, kill and destroy, is to recognize that Satan comes deceiving us as an angel of light and so testing the spirits are important. It’s to say truth matters, especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie because if Satan can just twist the truth, he can bring destruction to your soul, doesn’t start with kill, steal and destroy. He starts with a lie and just lets the destruction happen.
How do you test the spirits? When you look in verse 1, I think people come to this verse and really they sometimes will react two different ways. You’ll either go into fight or flight mode. Flight mode is where you get paranoid. I don’t want you to look at this verse, be like, “Oh, my gosh, there’s these spirits everywhere and we’re just ah,” you freak out about it, right? Verse 4 to 6 is for you if this verse makes you paranoid, okay? We’ll look at it in a minute, but don’t get paranoid.
I got to say one of the greatest pains in ministry is also really quickly aligned with one of the greatest joys in ministries. One of the greatest pains is seeing people lost because they really don’t know how to test the spirits or they’ve been lied to in their lives. But, one of the greatest joys is directing them to the truth that sets them free. I want us rather than be paranoid to build our confidence in what John says helps us test these spirits and to walk confidently in that. How do we test these spirits? That’s a good question but just think about this. Don’t be paranoid. Don’t go into flight mode.
The other thing is don’t go into fight mode. Fight mode are people that just become permanent heresy hunters, where they act like arrogant critics and just blast heretics all day like they feel like their whole purpose to seek and destroy, find people that don’t agree with Jesus and just annihilate them like from this truth. I don’t think God wants us to do that either. I don’t think that God calls us to be critical, but rather what this verse calls you to do is think critically. Does that make sense? Don’t critical. No one wants to be around that. But, do think critically. This is important. Truth sets us free.
I want us to encourage us to see truth as important and to show people what truth is. I want to be discerning, humble, godly servants of the Lord. It’s not about being paranoid in flight or being heresy hunters and fighting. It’s about recognizing there is light and there is darkness. I want to be aware of that. I want people to know the truth of Christ that sets them free. How do you test the spirits? This idea of test means to try, to examine, to prove. How do we prove these spirits, how do we examine these spirits or test them? The question I’m going to answer is then what is the standard by which we measure.
You ever take a test in life, you go to grade school, you have a test, everyone takes a test, you turn your test in, teacher’s got an answer sheet. That answer sheet becomes the standard to determine did you get an A or did you flunk the class, right? What is the standard to determine if something is true or not true? Here’s the unfortunate part of our society. In our country, what we’ve taught ourselves is that humanity is the highest standard of life and so we base everything on your personal experience. You become a litmus test for truth. It’s like this Oprah Winfrey style where she’ll ask the question, “What is your truth?” Honestly, that’s not what … She should rather ask, “What is your experience?” Because truthfully, you are not the determiner of truth. Truth existed before you existed and truth’s going to continue exist after you’re going. Truth is bigger than you. You aren’t the standard for what determines truth. Now, you can experience truth, but you never establish truth.
In fact, just by way of thinking of that, I would just say there is a lot of good people that believe a lot of things sincerely and they’re sincerely wrong. Just looking within yourself for the source of truth, well, there are spirits that can deceive you. How in the world do you know if you’re being deceived? If just take an example, two people, two types of people that I love, that I would disagree with, I would say, “Look, there is Hinduism and there’s Islam, right? Both of them make a proclamation about God. Both of them can say, ‘I had these wonderful internal experiences and this is my truth.’ But, they both can’t be right because they both teach about a different God. They can both be wrong, but they both can’t be right.”
When you have two people with different religious views saying, “I believe this is true, I believe this is true and this has been my experience, my personal experience of my truth.”
The other person’s like, “This has been my personal experience and truth.”
How do you determine who’s right and wrong if the basis of the standard of truth is within yourself? Because they both can’t be right. They’re teaching about two different gods. As they indicate for us the standard to examine which one’s true isn’t found within them but outside of them, there’s got to be a place that you come to, an answer sheet that examines outside of all of us that we can look at together and say, “Look, these guys are both making the proclamation. One of here’s got to be crazy. Maybe both. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?” You can love them in their incorrectness. They can’t both be true. The standard of truth isn’t found within us.
Now, I hope you enjoy your journey with the Lord, but the standard of truth isn’t found within us. I mean there’s a lot of people that believe things and believe wrong and now because of that, the prisons are full with them, right? With your whole heart, you can believe something. Then, we have a standard of law that says, “Well, you can believe that all, but it’s wrong, right? It is wrong, so let’s go to jail for this.” There’s a standard for that.
Using yourself as a basis of truth, here’s the scary part where that can go, Nazi Germany. When you start to use humanity as the basis for determining what’s right and wrong, eventually, you get to a place where might makes right. It’s not about what’s true anymore. It’s whoever screams the loudest, fights the hardest and wins the battle. Has nothing to do with truth and might makes right. In the end, what happens in the passivity of other people that might be true, corruption. Things like that birthed Nazi Germany. Might makes right. The point is I can believe sincerely like I can believe right now when I leave today I’ve got a helicopter outside that’s going to take me away. Reality is when I walk out I’ve got my same dinky car, right? You can believe things, but that doesn’t make them true.
How do you determine what’s true? Well, the standard of truth is outside you and me. What can we look at to determine what’s true? Well, John says that. He tells us in 1 John chapter 4, verse 2, “By this you know the Spirit of God,” so you want to test the spirits, here’s where you find the Spirit of God, the spirit you want to pursue. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. Every spirit that does confess Jesus is not from God, this is the spirit of the Antichrist which you have heard was coming and now is in the world already.
What John is saying is, “Look, the foundational standard for Christianity is built on Jesus, on Christ. That’s why we call it Christianity, right? We can examine Jesus to see if Jesus is who he claims to be, but the standard in this for us is Jesus. In John’s day, remember what they’re combating in Gnosticism, they think that the world is spiritual and evil and the evil’s bad and the spiritual’s good. Since Jesus was good, he never really came physically, he only came spiritually. John says that’s baloney. Jesus had to come physically. He had to be here physically because he had to die for you physically to pay for your sins physically. If you don’t believe that Jesus came, you’re undermining what Jesus did. Here’s the test. Jesus, it’s the identity of Jesus.
Jesus said it like this, as a standard of truth, John 14:6, “Am I the way, I am the,” what, “truth, I am the life.” Jesus tells us he is the way to pursue, he is truth itself, he is life itself. It’s not that he just gives life. It is he is the sustainer, upholder of life. I mean what kind of person calls themself the truth? What kind of man calls himself the truth, unless he’s more than just a man?
What John is establishing for us is Jesus is that standard. We think about that question, who is Jesus. Who is Jesus? The most important question you can answer in Christianity because this is everything that you’re believing in, this is what you rest your life on, this is what give you hope, this is where you say, “This is why my life is sufficient and not religion but in Christ.” It’s because of the identity of Jesus.
Jesus is eternal creator God who made everything physical and spiritual part of the tri-unity of God. We rebelled against him. He pursued us, he was born of a virgin, came in the flesh, died on the cross, resurrected the third day. He said, “Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins.” Jesus, today, in his resurrection, ruling on the right hand of the Father, promises in that ruling and reigning, he will return for us one day. That is the clarity of Christ which we rest in. That is the litmus test to examine if what someone is proclaiming is true or not.
John wants us to rest in the identity and standard that is Jesus. Then, John builds from there. He says this, verses 4 to 6, let me just read verse 6, he says, I want to come back to the other ones, “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us. Whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this, we know the Spirit of truth and spirit of error.” I’m going to use this word us. I think he’s representing the Church as a whole and then I think more specifically the Apostolic teaching because that’s what the Church obeys.
But, you remember in Jude verse 3, it tells us, and the book of Jude’s only got one chapter, verse 3, that, “The faith,” the faith not your faith, but the faith, “was once for all handed down to the Saints,” so it’s saying what is our faith is concluded and wrapped up in the identity of Jesus. There’s no more that needs to be added to scripture. Everything that we believe and live in is in Christ, so the faith has been handed to us.
That’s why John, in this passage, was able to say, “Look, you need to listen to what we have taught. Listen to us and what we have taught.” The standard, what John is saying, is really he’s saying it’s God’s word, “Listen to what the Apostolic teaching has brought to us because this is where we rest.” When you think about what Jesus, the idea of Jesus, Jesus being the standard when we test the spirits, we test the spirits we examine according to who Christ is in accordance to God’s word. God’s word records for us the identity of who Jesus is.
Jesus prayed for you in John chapter 17. In his prayer, as God’s people, he says this in verse 17 of chapter 17 of John, he says, “Sanctify them in truth, your word God is truth.” The standard, God’s word.
What John is saying in this story for us is that for us to examine the spirits is to look at the identity of Jesus and the truth at which is proclaimed about Jesus in God’s word. Then, you’ll know if what you’re taught is of the Spirit of God or not.
I know for some of us, and I have no problem with this, some of us you might be hearing me say, “Jesus is a standard, God’s word is a standard.”
You’re thinking, “Well, I’m glad that’s the standard, but how can I be confident in Jesus and how can I be confident in his word? I’ll tell you this morning, I don’t have time to dive into all of that, but I think if that foundation is secure and you can get to a place where you can see that foundation is secure, you can use this as the basis in your life to rest in. John wants us to recognize that.
Then, just in case you might be paranoid about the idea of spirits and the fact that there’s dark spirits and light spirits and you might want to build a bunker and hide in that. John writes verse 4 to 6 for you, right? He says this, “Little children, you are from God and you’ve overcome them. For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Those spirits have no power over you.
People read verses like 1 John chapter 4, verse 1 and freak out and say things like, “I see spirits.” Then, they just go in this voodoo mood and they’re afraid of everything, but, look … Well, I’m not going to argue whether that happens to you, but I’ll just say this, people just get weird over spiritual things sometimes, but look, regardless, they don’t have anything over you. You belong to Jesus and you belong to Jesus. Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world, which means what God had called you to in this world, you can accomplish because God’s power is with you. The same power that resurrected Jesus from the grave, rests in God’s people. We’re not called to walk in fear.
In verse 5, he says it like this, “They’re from the world,” talking about people that don’t follow Jesus, they’re from the world, “therefore they speak from the world and the world listens to them.” Don’t be shocked when the world disagrees with you. I mean, in fact, if you follow Jesus … These people murdered Jesus. You’re following a guy who was murdered and all of his immediate followers were murdered, so if the world doesn’t like you for following Jesus, just don’t be shocked by that. They operate by a different agenda, right? But, greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.
Verse 6, “We are from God. Whoever knows God, listens to us. Whoever is not from God, does not listen to us. By this, we know the Spirit of truth and spirit of error.” Here’s what he’s saying in the end, here’s what your goals should be, just know God. Don’t even worry about all the negative, dark stuff if you just make it one goal. That’s what Paul did in Philippians chapter 3, verse 8. Know God. I want to know God, to know him, and the Spirit in my life and to make him known.
Christianity is about believing in the truth of Jesus, trusting in that, resting in that foundation of his identity. In seeing his love in pursuit of our lives, giving our heart back to this King, who’s given his heart to you, to then respond by the loving those around us because that’s who Jesus loves. Christianity is summarized very easily, love God, love others. The reality is that message in its simplicity, it’s simple in its message because of the enormity of God’s grace that’s been poured out for you. But, don’t undermine that grace by adding to what Jesus has done because adding anything to it diminishes its perfection and beauty. Embrace it because what Satan desires to do is to get you to believe a lie. Yes, his motive is to steal, kill and destroy, but he understands he doesn’t have to do that. All he has to do is twist the truth and allow destruction to happen. But, if we can walk in the truth. It brings our souls freedom.
John’s encouragement for us is rather than be afraid of the spiritual world, understand that he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world and that God calls you to test the spirits, holding to the standard of what is truth, that found in Christ and in his word. In so doing when you wake up tomorrow, you don’t wake up asking what are the laws I obey, but rather, you surrender yourself to his leading and you walk in his Spirit. Walking in his Spirit, you’re free from the Law, but in that Spirit, the Bible tells us there is love, there’s joy, there’s peace, there’s patience, there’s kindness. When you surrender your life to the goodness of this God, you allow that Lord to work through you, and in working through you, he impacts hearts in this world.