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  • Pastor Brett

I.F.F.

Read 2 John in your Bible.

Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Identification, friend or foe (IFF) is a radar-based aircraft identification system designed for command and control. It uses a transponder that listens for an interrogation signal and then sends a response that identifies the broadcaster. It enables military and civilian air traffic control systems to identify aircraft, vehicles, or forces as friendly and to determine their bearing and range from the interrogator.

“Despite the name, IFF can only positively identify friendly targets, not hostile ones. If an IFF interrogation receives no reply or an invalid reply, the object cannot be identified as friendly, but is not positively identified as foe; it may, for instance, be a friendly aircraft with an inoperative, unresponsive, or malfunctioning transponder. IFF is a designed to reduce friendly fire incidents, but also contributes to overall tactical decision-making.”

Many people are familiar with Jesus’ words, “JUDGE NOT,” and take that command to forbid all kinds of judgments about other people. That is a classic example about taking a verse out of context, as just a few verses later, Jesus gives instructions on how to tell the difference between a GOOD TREE (person) and a BAD TREE (person). Spoiler alert: it is by their FRUITS (words and deeds). Jesus forbade judgmentalism but commanded exercising good judgment in knowing the difference between good and evil in one’s self and in others. John is certainly in line with the teaching of Jesus.

Believers are to be wise enough to know the difference between God’s friends and His foes.

1. Identify God’s friends by their love in word and deed. (4-6)

Mark #1 = God’s friends love the truth. WALKING IN THE TRUTH brings GREAT JOY to God’s friends. (4) The author of this book identified himself as the ELDER, so that is what we will call him. The Elder expresses relief and GREAT JOY to find that SOME of the CHOSEN LADY’s CHILDREN are still WALKING IN THE TRUTH.

This is the Elder’s teaching, the truth revealed by the FATHER who commands His children to live in keeping with the TRUTH. To walk in the TRUTH means to live in a way that is consistent with God’s commands, obedient to His will. We are to keep all the truth, not just the parts we find convenient or compelling.

Mark #2 = God’s friends truly love one another. In verse five THE Elder developed the most important part of the TRUTH revealed by the Father: His command to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. The Elder did not change his message; this is the same command he gave them FROM THE BEGINNING. In his commentary Dr. Tom Johnson wrote, “Love is the vital power to keep Christians together amid controversy and conflict. It can heal old wounds and keep new ones from opening.” (p. 153)

God’s friends WALK in OBEDIENCE and LOVE. (6) To merely claim to have faith and feel love are insufficient. Our daily living, our WALK, must be characterized by faith and love in action. Love for God is manifest in and proven genuine by obedience. Love for one another is manifest in and proven genuine by our words and deeds intended to build each other up in spiritual maturity.

2. Identify God’s foes by their falsehood & lack of love. (7-11)

Mark #1 = God’s foes are FALSE (7). The Elder called them DECEIVERS. This Greek word is based on the word for “error.” The DECEIVERS were not sincerely wrong, they were leading others astray even though they knew what their teaching was in error. The Elder identified one important point of their deception: they did not ACKNOWLEDGE JESUS CHRIST AS COMING IN THE FLESH.

Concerned for the spiritual life of the church, the Elder warned such DECIEVERS have GONE OUT INTO THE WORLD. They misrepresent the Church and the Gospel.

Mincing no words, the Elder correctly identified God’s foes as THE DECEIVER AND THE ANTICHRIST. There is no middle ground: every person is either God’s friend or foe.

Mark #2 = God’s foes split churches (9). In a play on words, the Elder wrote that God’s friends WALK in love, but God’s foes “run ahead.” Rather than stick with the faith passed down from the Apostles, they believe what they want.

Their error in rejecting THE TEACHING OF CHRIST is that they do not HAVE GOD. Regardless of what they claim, such people are not putting forth this teaching at God’s direction. It is entirely their own doing. By way of contrast, God’s friends continue IN THE TEACHING OF CHRIST, including that He came to this world IN THE FLESH, to provide life for us.

3. The importance of identifying friend and foe is found in the Elder’s warnings. (8,10-11)

The Elder’s warned the believers to guard their REWARD against God’s foes. (8) God has promised to reward His friends, the ones who remain faithful, whatever life or persecutors throw at them. Their motive is not to LOSE WHAT YOU HAVED WORKED FOR, the full REWARD God offers, eternal life in heaven. Daniel L. Akin wrote, “John believes perseverance is the proof of possession.” (p. 158)

In 1 John 1:19 our author explained how people who had been in church could turn and become “antichrist:”

THEY WENT OUT FROM US, BUT THEY DID NOT REALLY BELONG TO US. FOR IF THEY HAD BELONGED TO US, THEY WOULD HAVE REMAINED WITH US.” In other words, it is not possible to lose your salvation, but it is possible to appear to have it and by giving up, lose the appearance of salvation. By persevering we prove to ourselves and others our faith is real.

The Elder also warned them against befriending God’s foes. (10-11) When you recognize God’s foes, you are to cut ties with such a person. The idea is not to punish anyone with rudeness, but to act to quarantine yourself against their falsehood like an infection.

In a culture that emphasized hospitality (for example, in 3 John 8 the Elder commanded showing hospitality to faithful teachers), the Elder commands them to not be hospitable to such people. In our time, this would take the form of quietly but firmly shutting the door on cultists at your home or hanging up on deceivers on your telephone.

Speaking plainly, the Elder cautioned that anyone who welcomed God’s foes became an accomplice in their WICKED WORK. This would be sufficient cause to lose one’s REWARD (v. 8).

The Elder is simply being practical. He is making it easy for the friends of God to maintain their faith, not taking the risk of contaminating the truth by giving them even an inch of the precious territory of their soul. “Zero Tolerance” is the simplest, safest policy.

Believers are to be wise enough to know the difference between God’s friends and His foes.

Daniel L. Akin offers a neat, “mathematical” way of understanding how the foes of God work against a church.

Addition = “They add an extra-biblical source of authority by prophet, pen, or professor.’

Subtraction = “They subtract from the person and work of Jesus Christ the Son of God. They deny His deity and find inadequate His work of redemption.”

Division = “They divide our allegiance from God through Christ alone to others.”

Multiplication = “They multiply requirements for salvation. All advocate some form of works salvation.” (Akins, p. 169.)

Social media and 24-7 news media have created a “disinformation superhighway.” It is simply too easy to throw out personal opinions and prejudices without any regard for others or for consequences. The Elder says we who believe must do better.

My advice is to disconnect until you can find reasonable sources of information. Use social media to contact people you know and interact only positively and only with people you know and trust.

RESOURCES:

Message #538

New International Bible Commentary, 1, 2, and 3 John, Thomas F. Johnson

Christ-centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in 1, 2, & 3 John, Daniel L. Akin

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