Exploring 1 John Session 25 1 John 4:4-7
Exploring 1 John Session 25 1 John 4:4-7
We must be very careful in choosing who we allow to influence us. The wrong influence can steer you off course, and even a course one degree off can get you very much lost. In session 25 of our Exploration of 1 John we going to look at an application of John’s teaching as we consider the power of influencers on our decisions.
Did you know that there are computer programs that track the information you search for on the internet? I began to notice this when I would search for some product on the internet and all of a sudden my other devices start getting ads for similar products. That can be helpful, creepy, but helpful. I especially notice this with my YouTube searches. Similar interests keep popping up. On YouTube, I selected music from the ’70s. The next time I opened YouTube there were 15 selections of 70’s music to choose from. A computer making suggestions for you happens across the board. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVazBWGgg64]
It’s not only your selections; it’s the selections of people who live in your area. If you search the internet for climate change information, the sites offered up to you are in harmony with what people in your area have searched for and visited. Let’s say you live in an area that is certain that we are headed for a doomsday climate change scenario, it will be doomsday climate change scenarios that will be offered to you first. You read the information on a couple of sites and it influences your thinking, slowly convincing you that we are headed for big trouble. [https://rogersmovienation.com/2020/08/31/documentary-preview-netflixs-the-social-dilemma-points-a-spotlight-on-the-dark-side-of-online-algorithms/]
What we read, what we see, what we hear, who we hang out with, exerts influence upon us. These past four years it’s been interesting to see the influence both network media and social media have on people. I have very loyal democrats as friends and very loyal republicans as friends. My democratic friends love Joe Biden and hate Donald Trump. My republican friends love Trump and hate Biden. I think either passion is unjustifiable. Is it because the Biden lovers watch CNN and MSNC, and the Network nightly news and the Trump supporters watch Fox and have allowed the bias to influence them? It has become pretty obvious to me that the news is no longer the news, it’s news commentary and the commentary is biased, the commentary is designed not to report but to influence you to believe what the commentator thinks is truth. Nothing is neutral, everything exerts an influence upon you. Lock this into your thinking: “Media Manipulates.”
In session 25 John is reminding us to check our sources. Be careful, choose wisely the influencers in your life. In our lesson, John will tell us how to discern a truthful influencer from a deceitful influencer.
1 John 4:4-6 (MSG)
My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world's language and the world eats it up. But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.
The way you know that you come from God and belong to God is this: Having heard the gospel, that Jesus fully God and fully human-made atonement for the sins of the world, your sins, the things you have done that have deterred, damaged, or destroyed right relationships. You acknowledged your need for forgiveness, reconciliation, and a new start in life. You believed that Jesus has made this possible. You committed yourself to be Jesus disciple, a Christ-follower. You asked God to accept your faith. Having acknowledged, believed, committed, and asked it is now obvious that you love God by choosing to follow His will, commands, and His way for you. In that obedience, you discover that you love others, strangers even, by treating them with respect and as the opportunity arises giving them a helping hand. You know that you come from God and belong to God because your deeds, your behaviors, testify that you love God, and love others. The victory you win is walking in the light. I want you in the light. If today you feel a tug in your heart, that this gospel is resonating with you, you can acknowledge your need, believe that Jesus can meet that need, make the commitment to follow Jesus, and ask God to accept your faith. Right now you can become spiritually alive. The door is open. When you decide to walk through, let me know, I want to help you as you learn to walk in the light.
When God accepts your faith, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within you. His task is to guide you into all truth (John 16:13). He reveals inconsistencies with your commitment to living like Jesus and gives you the power to rectify those areas of difficulty (Isaiah 30:21). He works with you to overcome habits, attachments, and addictions that steer you off course. He works with you to discern a good influencer from a bad influencer helping you to continue to walk in the light. It is within your partnership with the Holy Spirit that you are empowered to live your life to the full, to be like Jesus (Galatians 5:25).
The false teachers, those who are part of the Jesus denying world, are the bad influencers. Recall that in John’s writing there is a strict dichotomy, you are either good or you are evil, you are in the light or the dark, you listen to God or are deaf to God. John tells us that the false teachers can’t hear the truth, that they don’t understand the truth, therefore they can’t speak the truth. This is so because the values and ethics of the Jesus denying world are the exact opposite of the values and ethics of the Kingdom of God (also consider Romans 1:24 & 2 Corinthians 4:4).
Consider that those aligned with the Jesus denying world seek the ascendancy, the self-actualization, the exaltation of the self. The goal of egoism is to do what you want, when you want, to whom you want, with no thought of the consequences, as long it is what you want. It’s standing on the beach, looking out at the ocean, arms open wide and shouting: “I am master of my destiny, I choose what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. I am accountable to no one but myself.” When the self is centered upon itself life is a competition, the goal is to be served, “better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.” How can such a person hear that self-sacrifice, losing one’s life in service to God, is the only way to find life eternal? When the self is centered upon itself there is an inordinate value placed on things. “He or she who dies with the most toys, the most fame, the most followers, the most power, and the best address, wins.” How can such a person hear that the material is inconsequential and what matters is the quality and quantity of the right relationships in your life? In Jesus's denying world “It’s all about me!” How can such a person hear the message of the Kingdom that life to the full is all about loving others?
“It’s a dog eat dog world”
“It’s survival of the fittest.”
“It’s the one with the most guns that win.”
“It’s loving things, using people.”
“It’s do unto others before they do unto you.”
“It’s I’m right and you deserve to die if you disagree.”
“It’s on the way to the top you have to step on the little people.”
“It sucks to be you.”
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
“Might makes right”
The Jesus deniers live these axioms out. Some do it civilly. Some accomplish it through manipulation and deceit. Some do it with a club, knife, gun, or political party. How can such a person hear Jesus' message? They can’t. Hear Jesus’ message:
Matt 5:3-11 (MSG)
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 "You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
6 "You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
7 "You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'carefull,' you find yourselves cared for.
8 "You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
10 "You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
11 "Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.
John tells us “The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us.” The nine verses just read sound like insanity. To those members of the Jesus denying world, His message is incomprehensible, they don’t get it. Instead, they speak the language of the Jesus denying world, members of that world eat it up. What gets eaten up gets regurgitated over and over again so often that we become convinced it must be true. “Everybody thinks this way, everybody is doing this,” so it must be OK. Don’t forget those computer programs that are designed to give you what you are looking for. Don’t forget that Social Media is crushing free speech, you’re only seeing propaganda. “Media Manipulates.” Don’t forget the news is all biased. Don’t lap up other people’s vomit.
I hear the pundits prophesy their preferences, but I don’t know how Joan Behar or Greg Gutfield, John Lemon, or Tucker Carlson live their lives. What they say can make sense, especially when I hear others regurgitating. But I don’t know how LeBron James or Herschel Walker, Taylor Swift, or Lil Wayne live their lives. Are they members of the Jesus denying world or members of the kingdom of God? What we’re driving at is choose your influencers wisely. Don’t be swayed by people who speak the language of a Jesus denying world. If someone is not living right are you going to allow them to influence your thinking? Would you take investment advice from Bernie Maddoff? Would you take marriage advice from Larry King? Would you take fashion advice from Lady Gaga? Would to take morality advice from Miley Cyrus? Are you going to take parenting advice from any cast member of MTV’s Teen Mom? I don’t think you would after examining their behaviors in dealing with the issues mentioned.
Your friends have influence. Evaluate those relationships. The five people you spend the most time with greatly influence you. You want to be part of the tribe so you do the things the tribe does. Are the five people you spend the most time with, friends, family, co-workers, are they helping you become the person who you want to be? Most likely they are influencing to conform to the tribe. We’re all into the same things, so we must be right. Do your friends encourage you in your intent to walk in the light? Are you more apt to go to the Bible study or the bar with them? Do they seek to glorify God or do they seek to glorify self? Please realize that you become like the people you associate with. Scripture warns: "Bad company ruins good manners" (1 Cor 15:33 (MSG). Spend time with the people who are going where you want to go.
If you have a friend who is a negative influence, you have to doubly guard yourself against veering off the path of light. John tells us that “We come from God and belong to God.” It is in God we find our true identity. It is your relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that is to be the most influential force in your life. How much time do you spend with God? One reason you are being constantly encouraged to practice the 7 habits of a disciple is that in doing so you spend focused time with God. Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, service, worship, obedience, and contemplation allow God to influence your thinking. You conform to the tribe of the Saints.
If you continue to walk in the light, you are constantly affirming your commitment to being a disciple of Jesus. As you do so, you become the influencer, not the influenced. You evaluate all of life with a divine perspective (Philippians 2:5). The result is that you live your life to the full (John 10:10).
We are constantly being influenced. We can be influenced by the Spirit of truth or by the spirit of deception. John has told us again that we can discern the one from the other. The spirit of truth influences us to be lovers of God, lovers of others and that love promotes the values and ethics of the kingdom. The spirit of deception promotes suspicion, fear-mongering, discord, division, polarization, competition, anger, depersonalization, viciousness, and hate. The spirit of deception promotes the exaltation of self, and the misguided values of the Jesus denying world. Don’t allow yourselves to be influenced by the spirit of deception. Check your influencers. Keep walking in the light. I want you in the light.