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There’s a joke around our assembly, that anything the Apostle Paul can say in 10 words, I can say in 1,000. Well, jokes often find their root in some truth. Guess I’ll have to own that one.
In fact, the entire book or letter of 1st John contains only 245 words in the original. A mere post card. But don’t let its compact size fool you. There’s vital stuff in those few words. And I’ll try to unpack some of it in less than a 1,000 words today on Through the Word in 2020.
I’m Reid Ferguson.
Christians are often gullible folk. It’s one of the interesting byproducts of coming to salvation, but still damaged by the remnants of indwelling sin. Jesus warned us about the tendency when He prepared the Disciples for their first preaching tour. “Behold” – pay attention – “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” In other words, don’t be naive. But don’t be hardened and bite back either.
Once we’ve come to the saving knowledge of Christ, we begin to see people as less still under the influence of Satan, the World and the Flesh. We tend to think they’ve got similar motives to ourselves – forgetting that our motives are new, and granted by the Spirit. Those still outside of Christ cannot think and feel as we do. And we need to be careful that we don’t get sucked in by thinking they want to do what is right the way the Spirit has now inclined us to.
And so it is John warns his readers in this short letter to watch out for 3 things which can trip the gullible Christian up. Deceivers will not only attack the Church from the outside, some are right in our midst already. We need expect them, and, to be prepared to detect them. But how will we know them?
There are 3 tell-tale signs to look for.
1. They will deny that Jesus Christ is God who has come in human flesh. They might claim to be “Christians” – but they will waffle on the incarnation. They will proclaim to own and follow Jesus, while at the same time denying He is actually God. Don’t get taken in.
2. They will not be content to remain with sound Biblical teaching, but will pervert it, or bring in their own invented ideas. They won’t “abide in the teaching of Christ” as vs. 8 says. They’ll have new insights or revelations that will move you from the principles of Bible interpretation, and set your eyes on things the Word never said. They will have secret knowledge they’ll say you need too.
3. They will not be characterized by a love of God’s people. It won’t be long before their private agendas will surface. And their chief concern will not be to point you over and over back to Jesus, but to something else. As though Salvation in Christ itself is just the means to some other end – rather than being conformed to the image of Christ. They will use the Church and God’s people as the means to gain power, money, recognition and even sex. We must beware.
And so John, as a faithful minister of God’s Word, gently and concisely gives us the tools to keep us from getting caught unawares. This is how a good Shepherd works. This, in the Shadow of the Great Shepherd of our souls – who has made sure we are well provided for.
That’s just 613 words. God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.