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Who Is 'Us?'

1 John 2:18-27-“Who is ‘Us?’”

Image by James Best, (C) 2020,

https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020

Today we celebrate our voluntary association with churches across our nation in a denomination called “American Baptists.” Next Sunday we’ll do the same for our association with other American Baptist churches across the Dakotas.

The key word there is “voluntary.” Baptists historically emphasize the freedom of each local church while at the same time recognize the practicality of working together to get more done. Put another way, we value independence but practice interdependence.

Occasionally, the tension between those competing themes makes problems. But as families are supposed to do, we solve our problems and remain in relationship. Issues are rarely solved neatly or easily, but we work at resolution so we can remain in communion with each other.

We ask ourselves, “Is it worth the effort?” One clue to an answer: over the last couple generations of American church life, the other six major Protestant denominations have lost followers at a horrific rate. Alone among the “Seven Sisters” of the American Protestant churches, American Baptists have grown slightly over that time. I would explain that as being the result of the evangelical and conservative churches like our own remaining in biblical truth and insisting the denomination do the same. The boundary of any group is a definition of who they are and who they are not. Today we’ll examine what John taught about the identity of true believers and the necessity of remaining in fellowship.

Denominational life is like family life; benefits accrue only to those who stay in relationship.

1. Who we are not.

We are not ANTICHRISTS (18). The term “antichrist” appears only in John’s letters. In this verse He used it in both plural and singular forms. This tells me that “antichrist” is a movement of opposition, not just a single notorious individual.

According to verse nineteen the ANTICHRISTS were at one time in the church, but at no time did they really belong there. The church is for Jesus’ followers, not Jesus’ detractors. They are “against Christ” in the sense that they denied the truth about Jesus and taught falsehood instead. In the Greek, the prefix translated “anti” also meant “in place of, against, and opposed to.” The false teachers were not neutral on the subject of Jesus being the Christ; they were strong deniers of it.

John warned the fact that such individuals were present indicated they were in the LAST HOUR. Jesus taught that prior to His Second Coming there will be an increase of persecution, of opposition to the truth. The LAST DAYS precede the end of history and the world as we know it. God will replace this sin-stained creation with a new heaven and earth. This is the culmination of His plan, established before the creation of the universe. Though two thousand years of history makes the LAST HOUR sound less immediate, the phrase refers to the time between Jesus’ Ascension and His Second Coming. We are still in the LAST HOUR.

We are not quitters (19). John’s reasoning seems rather circular: “We know we they were never Jesus people because they left us. If they had belonged to Christ, they would never have left.” However, his point is simply that “actions speak louder than words.” No matter how pious they may have sounded or seemed their real intentions were betrayed when they walked out on the church.

By way of contrast, John used the word REMAIN five times in this passage. Instead of leaving the church as the ANTICHRISTS had done, the true followers distinguished themselves by remaining. The same Greek word is used extensively in John 15, in Jesus’ illustration of the VINE and the BRANCHES. There He taught every good thing is possible to those who REMAIN in relationship with Jesus. No good thing is possible apart from that close relationship.

We don’t lie about Jesus (22-23). A specific falsehood these false teachers were purveying was the denial that JESUS IS THE CHRIST. They tried to convince people that Jesus was not the Messiah; not God the Son. True faith affirms the dual nature of Jesus Christ; He is both God and man. To deny one or the other is an incomplete and false teaching.

This is a fundamental truth is implied in His name. “Jesus” is our Savior’s given name and symbolizes the human side of His nature. He was born a human being and existed in history, interacting with other human beings. “Christ” is not His last name, it is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “messiah.” This title symbolizes His divine nature.

We will not be lead astray (26). The two main subjects of John’s letters are truth and love. In relationships, it is difficult to preserve both, but that is what God calls us to do. John revealed that a purpose for his writing was to warn the people about false teachers in their midst. They operated in neither truth nor love. Instead, their purpose was to lead the people ASTRAY; away from the truth. Whatever their motive, the false teachers knew the church folk would be easier to manipulate if they didn’t know the truth.

We don’t need to know how to argue with persons trying to persuade us to a contrary view, but we do need to keep our focus on Christ and simply refuse to be moved away from the faith we have received (JUST AS IT HAS TAUGHT YOU, REMAIN IN HIM).

2. Who we are.

We are anointed (20+27). “Anointing” is the biblical-era practice of applying oil to the body. It was commonly done as an act of hospitality and for healing. Less commonly, anointing had the purpose of ceremonially setting a person or object apart for God’s purpose. For example, kings and priests were anointed for service; temple furnishings were anointed before being used.

John used anointing as a symbol of the “set-apart” status of Jesus followers. We have received an ANOINTING FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT (20). Because they had received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, true followers are set apart to a divine purpose; to uphold truth and love. This is only possible because the Holy Spirit resides in us.

We know the truth (20-21, 27). An important outcome of this anointing is knowledge of the truth. The Holy Spirit grants every believer two important things: first, the illumination of Scripture. The Holy Spirit enables every follower of Jesus the ability to read the word of God with understanding. The Spirit enables us to apply what we’ve read and will bring it to mind when we need to recall what it said.

Second, Holy Spirit gives discernment. As we live the life, the Holy Spirit enables believers to know the difference between good and evil. When we can’t put a finger on how we know, we know because the Spirit told us. God does not require us to have “blind faith” - just the opposite - we are to study the word, test it, learn what it says, and stay steady in the faith we have received (27).

The truth remains in us (24-25). God promises that His word and the Holy Spirit will REMAIN in the ones who REMAIN in Him. Contrary to what our culture teaches, truth is not dependent on each person’s viewpoint. It is not for us to make up a faith that suits us. It is our job to receive the truth as defined by the Bible and the church, and make it our own by increasing our understanding of it. By doing this, we receive the reward promised to those who REMAIN: ETERNAL LIFE.

Denominational life is like family life; benefits accrue only to those who stay in relationship.

There is a late-night talk show host whose name I won’t mention because I don’t like Jimmy Fallon’s politics. One thing he does almost weekly is get the American public to do his work for him by tweeting responses to a topic he has chosen. Here are some funny replies to #dumbestfamilyfights.

#1 = “My sister once screamed at me for an entire car ride because I was looking out her window. To this day my whole family will randomly yell, ‘DON’T LOOK OUT MY WINDOW!’ at each other.”

#2 = “The day the clocks turned back for daylight savings time. Members of my family kept arguing about what time we should feed the cat so she wouldn’t be confused.”

#3 - “My brothers often argue with each other on who is the ugly one between them both… They’re identical twins.”

#4 = “I jokingly asked my family: ‘How many of each type of animal did Moses take aboard the Ark?’ My Grandma says; 2.

“When I tried to tell her it was Noah, not Moses, she said I was wrong and stormed out of the room! Dad says, ‘We don’t talk religion at the dinner table!’”

#5 = “For years, my dad has sworn he needs glasses, but my mom says he’s just ‘not trying hard enough.’”

RESOURCES:

Message #545

https://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/photos/hashtag-gallery-dumbestfamilyfight/3420957

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