Exploring 1 John Session 23 1 John 4:1
Exploring 1 John Session 23 1 John 4:1
Seemingly bursting into the culture is the “Fact Check.” A fact-checker is charged with determining the validity, the reality, the truthfulness of what someone says. Most often a politician needs the corroboration of a fact-checker because they often speak in such a way as to put themselves in a favorable light, they are prone to exaggeration. University professors and public school teachers often need a fact checker because they are swayed by propaganda. Do you think we need a fact-checker when it comes to advertising, to product claims? We all need fact-checkers, and lately, we need those who check the fact-checkers. Deceit, obfuscation, inveiglement, misdirection, and flat out lies are a cancer in our culture today. We must do our due diligence that we are not deceived.
We are stepping into session 23 of our Exploration of 1 John. 1 John is a letter written to a congregation that had experienced a schism, a letter written to assure the congregation that they were in the light, in fellowship with God, living devout and holy lives. In the 4th chapter John calls us to be fact-checkers. That calling is as necessary now as it was the day that John wrote it.
1 John 4:1 (MSG)
My dear friends, don't believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.
We should anchor this verse in the history within which it was written. We know that the Christian Gnostics took the gospel and gave it their own interpretation, stripping humanity from Jesus. There were even more false teachers. We know from reading the Acts of the Apostles that there were those who peddled the gospel for profit. That was the desire of one such person Simon Magus, aka, Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-24) Paul urges Timothy to command those spreading false teachings to stop (1 Timothy 6:3-5). There were the Judaizes, legalists, antinomians, and proponents of spiritual errors that led people away from authentic discipleship. Around 100 AD you might have read in the Didache and learned: "Not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet; he is only a prophet if he walks in the ways of the Lord" (Didache 11 and 12).
Of course, John would have been familiar with the instruction found in his primary scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible.
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (MSG)
1 When a prophet or visionary gets up in your community and gives out a miracle-sign or wonder, and the miracle-sign or wonder that he gave out happens and he says, "Let's follow other gods" (these are gods you know nothing about), "let's worship them," don't pay any attention to what that prophet or visionary says. God, your God, is testing you to find out if you totally love him with everything you have in you. You are to follow only God, your God, hold him in deep reverence, keep his commandments, listen obediently to what he says, serve him—hold on to him for dear life!
5 And that prophet or visionary must be put to death. He has urged mutiny against God, your God, who rescued you from Egypt, who redeemed you from a world of slavery and put you on the road on which God, your God, has commanded you to walk. Purge the evil from your company.
False teaching is serious stuff because it leads people astray. This call to follow other gods is any suggestion that rejects the gospel as handed down to us by the apostles and the original message of our mandate to love God and to love others. When someone adds on to the message, it’s false, when someone speculates on the meaning of a text, it’s false, when someone overemphasizes a certain scripture while disregarding others it’s false teaching, when some subtracts from this message it’s false. I haven’t been able to track down who first said “If it’s new, it isn’t true.” But here’s what I discovered: when it comes to the teachings of Christianity handed down to us in Scripture, If it's new, examine it very closely.
Filling pulpits today are preachers claiming to speak in the name of God through the power of the Spirit. The temptation to be novel is strong. We are called, we are warned, to examine what is preached and what is taught, to verify what is being proclaimed, to safeguard us from being led astray from our task of loving God and loving others.
False teaching can be very subtle. False teaching utilizes Christian sounding words to promote self-interests. False teaching is the misinterpretation and misapplication of scripture. Prevalent in the Church here in these United States is the word of faith teaching that is characterized by the name-it-claim-it teachers. Jesus said “Give and it will be given” as recorded in Luke 6:38, “so give to my ministry, send your seed money, and my God will meet all your financial needs; your health needs.”
In the spirit of rugged independence, there are those who will tell you their understanding of scripture comes directly from the Holy Spirit. These folks haven’t taken the time to study where their ideas actually come from. When it comes to the interpretation of scripture no one comes to a text without a bias, without some sort of theological presuppositions. One member of my family had what I called a “sievematic” theology. You know what a pasta strainer is right? Boiling water with al dente pasta needs to be poured off so you use a strainer, a sieve. With sievematic theology, you put in all kinds of theological ideas into your thinking from different backgrounds and traditions, but as a logical whole (a systematic theology), your understandings “don’t hold water.” I’ve heard one deceived soul expound on the premise that Jesus' second coming is exclusively personal, what that means is the second coming of Christ happens when you first believe.
You are a believer, aren’t you? If you are not, you might be having trouble making sense of what I am saying (John 12:40). There is truth that can only be spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). In other words, you need help beyond your self, you need help to open spiritual eyes and ears. This enlightenment comes to a person who acknowledges that spiritual truth is elusive. This enlightenment comes to a person when they hear the gospel and the message resonates within, the result is that they believe. This enlightenment comes to a person who believes that Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, makes a commitment, a sacred vow, to be a disciple, learning how to live life to the full guided by Jesus. God grants spiritual enlightenment so that you can understand spiritual principles when having acknowledged, believed, and committed you ask. This is the general path of entering into the light. You are free to choose. I urge you to do so that you gain the tools you need to understand life through spiritual eyes. I want you in the light. If today you decide that the path to enlightenment is one you are taking or just took, let me know I want to encourage you as you walk in the light.
Preaching, instruction, exposition, what we are calling “teachings” is our task to carefully evaluate. What we see, what we hear, what we read, requires our discernment. Be aware that the servants of Satan masquerade walking in the light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Even those that should know better get sidetracked into error. In academia, there is pressure to produce papers, articles, and books. In this is the danger of being novel. Rob Bell in his book Love Wins, suggested that after death, God will give you numerous chances to repent. Great idea, I’ve liked the idea of universalism the first time I heard it. God forgives everyone regardless of how they choose to live their lives. Everybody gets more chances to repent in the afterlife. I’m all for hyper permissive grace, but unfortunately, that seems to ignore many scripture texts to the contrary. You know through John’s letter the actions of love, God’s love in you, God’s love flowing out of you in deeds of obedience and deeds of respect as you seek to meet the need of others are evidence of spiritual life. If love is absent, salvation may be absent also.
Another error that is easy to fall into is Parrot Teaching. Parrot teaching is when an idea is repeated so often by so many that it has to be true. One such teaching is that there is a secret rapture of the church prior to Jesus' second coming and thus believers escape the great tribulation. With this set of lenses, you read the idea into various scripture texts and it seems to confirm your belief. But the whole secret rapture of the Church prior to the great tribulation, which is part of a set of beliefs called dispensationalism, was totally unknown until about 1820 when it arose with a vision experienced by a young person in Glasgow Scotland. Ms. Mc Donald’s pastor, Rev Darby began preaching the vision as gospel truth. Rev. Darby would become one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren. This teaching migrated to the United States and was heralded by evangelist Dwight L. Moody, the Billy Graham of his day. Then the teaching was put in black and white in the Scofield Reference Bible. This teaching called the pre-tribulation rapture has been parroted ever since. The book series “Left Behind” gives you a great fictional account of this teaching. (John 16:33; Revelation 7:14) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_cVXdr8mVs and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqYHeBdMqvU]
“If it’s new, it isn’t true.”
The Apostle Paul told the congregations in Galatia:
Galatians 1:8 (MSG)
Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven!—were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed.
Fortunately, belief or disbelief in a pre-tribulation rapture has no bearing on one’s salvation. There are a whole lot of Christians that believe before things get really bad here on earth, Jesus will pluck believers out so that they don’t have to experience the worst of God's wrath and anger on unrepentant humanity. I have questions about the accuracy of such beliefs.
The churches are -full of people claiming to speak in the name of God. They claim that they are prophets, visionaries, expounding all manner of spiritual insight. They may have “a word of the Lord for you.” You hear them on the internet, on cable TV on the radio, streamed to you from every device known to man. There’s the gospel of tolerance, the gospel of sexual preference, the gospel of social activism, the gospel of political parties, the gospel of legalistic holiness, the feel-good gospel, and the gospel of self-exaltation --just to name a few.
Jesus words continue to instruct us”
Matt 7:15-16 (MSG)
"Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don't be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say.
The first fact check is to look at the life of the person speaking. False teachings come from false teachers. That’s why Jesus instructs us to look at a person’s character. Do they practice what they preach (Matthew 7:15-20)? Do their lives demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23)? Do they demonstrate love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) even to the least? Character counts. A solid reputation matters, a track record is important. In modern times Billy Graham demonstrated this to us. A person’s bonafides help you in figuring out if someone is just mistaken in a teaching or a deceiver.
The second fact check is to make sure what is being taught is biblical. Again you are encouraged to daily practice the 7 habits of a disciple. Those 7 habits are bible study, prayer, fellowship, service, worship, obedience, and contemplation. By studying the Bible, reading the scripture, you sharpen your abilities to detect truth from error. In prayer, the Holy Spirit will take what you are reading and studying and use it to guide you. In fellowship your congregation supplies wisdom. In this letter, John has repeatedly told us that adherence to the gospel and carrying out the original message is what disciples are to be about, the result is being like Jesus. This is what the spiritual discipline of obedience is all about, not my will but God’s will. If there is a deviation—there is deception.
The third fact check is to discover if the teaching is consistent with the witness of the Church. There are many brilliant minds over 2000 plus years of the Christian faith. True disciples who proved faithful have left us a legacy. Explore that legacy. Most likely if a teaching is new or novel, it’s wrong and most likely the error has already been exposed. It was George Santayana who wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
John has called us to be fact-checkers when it comes to spiritual truth. Don’t get duped.
2 Timothy 4:3-4).
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths”