Preach 6.30 // 10 June // TRINITY
1 John 2:18-27
Imagine if Steve or I stood up here one Sunday and announced to you:
Dear congregation, this is the last hour; the antichrist is coming, in fact already many antichrists have come.
I think you’d all be a tad concerned! Antichrists – it’s a pretty harsh word isn’t it? Almost fear-inducing? Not a word we might use of people really?
So I want to start today with a quote from a great Baptist Pastor of the 20thCentury, Charles Spurgeon:
He said specifically of this passage and of this reference to antichrists:
‘The worst of people go out from among the best of people,
the antichrists go out from the church of Christ.
The raw material for a devil was an angel.
To make a Judas, you must make him out of an apostle.
He’s really highlighting that becoming a Christian doesn’t make you immune to doing the wrong thing, to being led astray, even to doing evil, in fact it sets you open to it.
The raw material for a devil was an angel – the devil who was one of God’s angels was cast out of heaven.
To make a Judas, you must make him out of an apostle – obvs citing Judas – one of Jesus’ own followers, but the one who came to betray him
and ‘The worst of people go out from among the best of people, the antichrists go out from the church of Christ.
Exactly what John here is talking about those who have heard the message of the Gospel, been part of The Way but have fallen away, being led astray by false teaching…
Spurgeon goes on, almost a prayer:
May God purify his professing church since even in her own loins she breeds adversaries of the faith.
That’s pretty challenging isn’t it? That even in God’s church, adversaries to the faith are made?
That’s why I want to start here because we can hear words like ‘antichrist’ and think it’s a million miles away fromus, it’s pantomime villain-esque.
but we have to always be on our guard, focussed on Jesus, and not be led astray. If Judas who walked with Jesus, saw the miracles he did, the impact he had, if he could be led to betray Jesus himself, it could happen to any one of us.
Ok so let’s take a step back…. Let’s look at what John is saying here…
Steve was talking last week about ‘Papa John’ and you can see John’s Fatherly-ness in writing these letters, he wrote primarily to new Christians, as a Pastor and spiritual Father, who referred to his readers as ‘dear Children’. His heart for them – and us – is as a Father, reflecting Father God.
And he longs for them and us, to stay close to Jesus, and not to be led astray, not to listen to the lies of the enemy.
So here he starts with this warning of the antichrists…
Back then, we know that Jesus had alreadywarned about false teachers who would come, who would deceive many people, and there were many. Palestine particularly, was full of people and movements claiming that God was acting in this way, in that way, through this movement, through that man. And in fact it was as much political as religious. Religion and politics were so intertwined, as we see in the death of Jesus, the Jewish leaders negotiating with the Roman rulers to get Jesus condemned.
But can you imagine in that kind of environment and with the desperation for political change, those who had been there, maybe even seen Jesus, might be swayed by new teachers, out of hope, desperation even. And some of those who had been with Jesus did get swayed by some of these false teachers, that’s why John says ‘they went out fromus…’ from among the believers..
v22 we read:
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?[h] This is the antichrist,the one who denies the Father and the Son.
So, who is the antichrist ? it is the one who denies who Jesus is
In this day and age, we might think of the well known deniers of Jesus –
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Hawking, Sam Harris – those who as atheists deny Jesus is God.
Stephen Hawking for example said this:
“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now scienceoffers a moreconvincing explanation,” he said. “What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”
That might seem a little arrogant, we might disagree with him, but John would label Stephen Hawking, world renowned scientist, who contributed greatly to our world, to our society
As an antichrist.
Seems a bit harsh doesn’t it?
And how about those of other beliefs?
And there are those who call themselves spiritual but not religious who might talk about there being lots of ways to God. Or it’s all the same God at the end of the day…
Well if John heard that he’d be labelling them too.
And other faiths – you can read in the Quran for example that there are many verses that specifically deny Jesus, the crucifixion and the Trinity. But would we actually label Muslims as antichrists?
The ultimate antichrist is of course the devil and it’s he who manipulates and draws people away from knowing Jesus and actually I think he’s often far more subtle than we think.
He is the master of confusion, he often uses little things to sway us, to confuse us, and they develop into big things.
So here’s an example from the bible, where we see the serpent (representing the devil) in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
No he didn’t – he said:
“You ARE free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 butyou must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
See how subtle it is – God says you can’t eat from one tree, the snake says, did God really say you can’t eat from any tree?…
just close enough to the truth to confuse Eve – so then she does become confused about what God has said and replied:
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
Where did that come from? Confusion?
She remembers wrong because she’s confused by the snake .
So then the snake goes one further, now that she is confused, he uses that and twists it:
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
putting temptation in there…
All this from one note of confusion.
And here’s the thing- it’s just the same for us, it often doesn’t take much to push us off the Jesus course. And I think, the biggest thing we can ask ourselves related to this passage is who are the antichrists in our lives?
Not as in who are the obvious pantomime villains as it were – but more likely in our lives, in the day to day ways we are swayed from our faith in Jesus. So who are those who confuse us? What distract us from the truth? Who or what draws us away from Jesus? And it will be different for each of us.
Now it might be people we know or it might be people we look up to, people in authority or well known people? It might be stuff we read in the media or on TV, or someone’s opinion. It actually doesn’t matter –
1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 says this:
3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way…
But John says: v21
21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.
Are you getting swayed from the truth? The truth of who Jesus is in your life?
Here’s a few examples.
Are you ever encouraged to behave in a way that is not Godly?
Do you hang out with friends who encourage you to do things you probably shouldn’t?
How about engaging in gossip, speaking behind someone’s back?
Or perhaps someone has spoken negative things over you that you have begun to believe. I’m thick, ugly, stupid, too fat, too short, too thin, I’m not worthy, God doesn’t love me, how could he?
You know if I believed all the negative things people had said about me over the years, to me and behind my back, I would be a mess.
You know at school I was told in English that my writing was clichéd and boring and I ended up thinking I was no good at writing – but in later life I won awards for my writing on my blog.
Also at school, I was at a selective school where everyone got A*s for everything, I got a B and 2 Ds for my A Levels, so I thought I was stupid, not academic. I ended up with degree 2:1 and I’m completing another now in Theology, in my Curacy.
These things pull as away from our God given identity. It’s the devil lying to us. The devil is a liar and does everything he can to pull us from Jesus, from the truth of who we are.
And we have to be on our guard to see that. Because the lies are everywhere!
I mean tell me, and this might be a bit ranty sorry! is anyone watching Love Island? Go on be honest – I will admit I have been watching it this week.
And let’s face it, it is truly awful, but at the same time I can’t tear my eyes away from it. My oldest was watching it this week while I was tapping away on the computer, like ‘I am not watching this’ and within minutes I was like, she said what? And he did that?
It is so easy to get drawn in!
If you haven’t seen it, it involves? 13 (I think) of the most tanned, muscled up, made up, primped, preened and beautiful 20 somethings all parading around in next to nothing in a luxury villa, with the sole purpose of getting coupled up. In fact not even coupled up – getting laid.
Love Island it is not – Lust island maybe…
Love Island – modern day antichrist?
Sound a bit melodramatic? Ok well, look at it like this:
Last summer Love Island was one of the most watched, talked about, tweeted about programmes on the TV, especially for young people. And what does it model for us?
That you are only worth something if you look perfect and glamourous
That you can only be complete if you give out
That love is all about sex
That relationships don’t matter,
Commitment is overrated
And this is what is shaping us and our ideals? How far is that from God’s truth? It’s modelling a lie.
God’s truth is that:
you are God’s beloved child and he has such a great plan for you!
You are worth so much to him, so much more than you can imagine, Your worth is in who you are, not what you look like
In his eyes you are so precious and wonderful, regardless of your grades or your size, or the clothes you wear, or how many followers you have on Instagram.
And that, to God relationship is key – he longs to know you and for you to know him, committed and long term, not a one night stand.
God is in it, with us, for the long haul, through all things. ALL things.
And that’s what John wants his readers to know, that God is your wonderful Father and he pours out that Father’s love to his readers. To us.
So I was thinking about this and whether I was going off on a tangent so I asked some people for things they thought might be good examples of antichrists today -ie: things that give false teaching, drawing us away from Jesus – Here’s a few of them, you might not agree with them all but some might strike a chord for you…
Technology and Social media– teaches us that self image is important, that more followers/friends shows how loved we are.
Teaches an over emphasis on independence and the self – which breeds selfishness, a lack of generosity. When God says you are made in my image, you are precious and loved, I am always with you, even in suffering – I suffered for you.
Horoscopes – teaches us to trust in things that are not of God -Trusting in the wrong things to guide us. When the bible teaches us to trust in God always.
Porn– not that far from Love Island actually. Gives a totally distorted view of love, relationships, respect for each other (and also a big contributor to human trafficking) and yet God is the God of love
Prosperity gospel and works righteousness. One says Jesus isn’t enough and second says Jesus isn’t necessary
Consumerism?Gives us false promises of happiness if you buy/own/use/item X then you will be Y when the bile says don’t worry about what you need, goes back to trust.
Sports teams– sport and the following of teams can teach us to worship idols,
Brexit:teaches:let’s take care of ourselves (not love your neighbour)
Unattainable beauty standards in the media/advertising showing ‘perfect’ bodies – many of which are airbrushed, very young, thin etc when the bible says you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
An that’s just a few responses.
And one thing I’d love you to do this week is to think about whether there is any false teaching in your life? who or what are you influenced by and why? And then just think about how that fits in with God’s plan for you and God’s picture of you?
Because we can’t just avoid all the things that are there to draw us away from Jesus – we can’t just stay in little Christian enclaves and keep to ourselves – because – we are called to be out there,sharing the gospel and being a light wherever we go, so we can’t just shut ourselves away.
You know there is a statistic that says something like:
When someone becomes a Christian within 5 years they have no non-Christian friends anymore. How can we share the gospel if we don’t spend time with people who don’t know it!
So the big question is, if we are called to be here, amongst the antichrists, amongst the distractions and confusion, how can we protect ourselves? How can we keep focussed on Jesus as John says? how do we stay with Jesus, committed and faithful? Not swayed by the antichrists or the false teaching in our lives?
Well, the good news is, John gives us what we need to hear:
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it…
27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
Look, if you are a follower of Jesus, have made that commitment to him then you have the Holy Spirit in you, you carry that anointing that John is talking about, the anointing from the Holy One. You have an in-built satnav programmed for Jesus, you just need to listen to it! (or turn it on..)
And just to reiterate the point – it is interesting that John uses the word ‘anointing’ here because it is the same root work as Messiah. Messiah – – Chrisma (chrism)
which literally means ‘anointed one’, God’s anointed one…
and in fact when he is talking about antichrists it is the same root word but used in the opposite sense – anti-messiahs, the anti-anointed people if you like.
Literally direct opposites, so:
you the anointed – don’t be swayed by the anti-anointed.
Theyare not only denying that Jesus is the Messiah; they are denying everything that makes you, now, who you truly are, who God has made you to be.
And three times John mentions the anointing in you just in these verses.
And that his (Jesus’) anointing teaches you:
The truth (v20) is not a lie…
If it remains in you,you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And his promise of eternal life.
v26 his anointing teaches you about all things
the anointing is real
So you actually already have all you need to stay focussed on Jesus, not to get swayed by distractions or false teaching.!
So, to finish up, here’s what you need to remember…
1) think about what influences you – identify any false teaching.
2) if you haven’t already – make that commitment,received the HS into your life as a guide to help you follow Jesus
2) and once you have it, listen to it! Seek God’s guidance every day, for specific situations, for protection from being distracted or swayed to a different way of thinking. How does God guide you?
Pray, worship, read your bible, talk with other Christians…
4) And finally be on your guard – and I’m going to finish with this from 1 Peter 5:8-11 MSG version.
8-11 Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does!