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WALKING IN THE TRUTH from 1 John.
Beware of the abstract because it can only lead into theorizing. Never forget that truth is not abstract, all truth is incarnate. Jesus said “I AM . . . THE TRUTH”, not “I will show you the truth“, not “I will lead you to the truth” . . . “I AM THE TRUTH”. You will find again and again that all the wonderful things that God promises us are incarnate in Jesus Christ. Take for instance, the verse “Jesus Christ who is our hope.” Our hope is vested in a person. Many of us seek to lead others to Christ and into the possession of eternal life. We give them the idea that they go to God and take this nebulous thing, eternal life, and somehow or other put it into themselves, and then go away and live their lives independently. Listen, “He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life”. Everything is summed up in the person of Jesus Christ. The great lie of all time is the denial of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In 1 John 2 v12 the apostle writes, “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven”. Do you remember the day when you first understood that Jesus had died there on the Cross for you and that it meant that for His name’s sake you could go into the presence of the living God and call Him Father? That is the dawn of the Christian life, the new birth! We see Jesus crucified for us and there is no other reason why God forgives than because of the name of Jesus. You do not get forgiveness because you confess, you get forgiveness because there is a great High Priest at God’s right hand and He still bears the marks of His passion. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. “Little children, your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.”
Next John goes to the other end of the scale and says, “I write to you, fathers (v13), became you have known Him who is from the beginning”. As we go out into the Christian life we discover not only that the need of our hearts is met and that we are forgiven sinners, but that we have a Father and we begin to know Him and to talk to Him. He becomes real to us and is the centre of everything as we go on in the Christian life. As we grow older in the things of God this knowledge becomes stronger and stronger. “You have known Him who is from the beginning”. We do not just turn in upon ourselves, we turn to the living God and see how gentle He is, how gracious and yet how unswervingly holy. And God begins to fill our hearts and lives with awe.
Then John says, “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one”. You see, in middle life there is strength to live, to overcome, not here today and gone tomorrow, not one moment saying “Hallelujah” and the next going about with drooping shoulders, not one moment in victory and the next in defeat, “You have overcome the evil one”. The glory of the mature Christian life is seen in a quiet, consistent, victorious walk with God.
One old writer has called these verses ‘the innocence of childhood, the strength of prime, and the experience of full maturity’, and all those qualities are needed in the Christian Church. We must have all these three side by side, the innocence of childhood, the strength of prime and the experience of full maturity, and all this can be ours, in our own lives. We can be innocent, because we are living in the glory of the light of full forgiveness. We can be in the strength of prime, because we have learned where to trust. We can be in the maturity of adulthood because of our knowledge of the living God.
The tense changes in verses 13 and 14, “I have written” or “I wrote.” “I wrote to you, children,” and the word for children changes too. It is not the word “little” children, but the word for children who are just starting their education and comes from a Greek word, the root of which means ‘to educate’. The children have begun going to school. ‘I am writing to you children, who have begun going to school, because you have known the Father’. They have begun to graduate from the knowledge of forgiven sins into the knowledge of the Father. ‘I have written to you’, John says in effect, ‘and this is the lesson that you are going to learn in school, step by step, to know the Father for yourselves’.
“I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” Again we find underlined growth in Christian life, in the knowledge of God. Never dwell on experiences, they get moth-eaten! Never point people back and say, ‘There was a time when I had this experience!’ We do not take an experience, we take the knowledge of Him, a knowledge which continues from day to day and moment to moment, a knowledge of the greatness and the wonder of our God. That is what we need to lead people into. They are living in a world that was made by Him, yet they do not know Him, and you and I are here to lead them to Him.
Now John says, “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong”, and he tells them why they are strong, “the word of God lives in you”. I am going to say something very strong here, the person who thinks they can do without the Scriptures is a fool. It is through the Word of God that we get to know Him. How precious is this Book. As you learn more about it you seem to know less! As you study it more you come upon ever fresh facets of Him and of His grace! Never minimize the place of the Word of God in your Christian life! Our strength is through the working of the Word in our hearts and lives, “And you have overcome the evil one”. One of the old writers said of this verse, ‘So long as they trust in this and not in themselves, and remember that their victory is not yet final, they may rejoice in the confidence which the consciousness of strength and victory gives them’. They rejoice in what they find here in the word of God, what they find of Him.
In John 17 v17 Jesus prays, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth”. Sanctify us through Your word, bringing the living God ever closer into our knowledge and consciousness, so that because we live in the beauty of His presence, we become like Him.
Never think that you are going to ‘feel’ better! I believe it to be the experience of everyone who seeks to go on with Him that the older they grow, the worse they feel. After all, that is only logical, because the nearer we get to God the more we see of our imperfections and the less disposed we are to judge others. Your Word is truth, and the truth reveals the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Verses 15 to 17 are a test of sincerity, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him”. That is somewhat devastating but we dare not water it down. Just here lies the difficulty with many of us. At times we desire to be more like Him, we have right desires and longings, but there are things that are based in this world that we hold dearer than Him. The answer is quite simple. In John’s Gospel, chapter 7 and verse 17 you will find this, “If anyone choses to do God’s will, he will find out . . .”. If you do not understand the doctrine of deliverance in Christ, the strong probability is that there is something at the back of your life that is wrong, or allied to the world, and you are not prepared to deal with it. The love of the world is a very strong chain. The desire for prominence, the wish to be in the public eye, yes, even that your work shall succeed, these are of the world and are the ruination of many.
“Everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes . . .” The old first-century Christians used to say that if you went into a heathen temple and looked at the beauty of some of the architecture and statues you could see there, you might be lured away through your eyes. How true that is in our day and generation. There will be many a soul lost through such things as television, not that it is evil in itself, but it can take the place which should be set aside for God. People find time for that when they have no time for Him and their eyes lure them away. Then follows “the pride of life”. The ‘vain glory of life’ would be a better translation. The word ‘life’ used here is a Greek word that is very rarely used in the New Testament, it is the word ‘bios’ from which we get our word ‘biography’. The vain glory of biography. I sit down to write my autobiography and say I have travelled in Australia, in Africa, and so on, and have done this, that and the other. I have preached here, there and in the next place, and what has happened? I have been caught by the world, but “the world and its desires pass away, but the one who does the will of God lives for ever”. There is only One who is worth while, who is going to last for all eternity, and He is the One we must set our hearts on and lead others to.
Now to the final section, verses 18 to 19. “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.” It is strange but that which draws away from Him and takes His place often has its birth in the professing Christian Church. Error often sits complacently in the Christian Church and out of the Church arises a spirit of antichrist. Antichrist does not just mean against Christ but instead of Christ. It is something which takes His place and we are told very plainly what it is. The great driving force behind everything anti-Christian is the lie, as contrasted with the truth. Look at verse 22, “Who is a liar? It is the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ”.
Here we stand, and as Martin Luther said, we can do no other. We stand upon this one fact, that Jesus is the Christ. You will find that people will say ‘O yes, we believe in Jesus; we believe in his preaching and teaching and we love to try and follow the Sermon on the Mount, but of course he is not God. He is only a man and fallible. He was a man who was governed by the thoughts of his own time’. My friends, listen! Jesus was the God-man. Jesus here upon earth was God manifest in the flesh. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is ‘God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God’. We can have no dealings with anything that denies this. This, according to the Scriptures, is antichrist. Christ came into the world, Jesus, the man. He went to the Cross, and as the representative man He bore the sins of the world away there upon Calvary. He was laid in the tomb and that first glad Easter morning He rose again from the dead and lives for ever at God’s right hand. “He lives for ever to make intercession for us”. Further on in this epistle you will find this statement, “He who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God”. It does not say believes the truth about Him, but believes that that Jesus who was nailed to the Cross is now the Lamb in the midst of the throne, the great High Priest at the right hand of the Father, and that that same Jesus will come again and then this great dark world will be gathered into the arms of God. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will then be seen as King of kings and Lord of lords. “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Today that which is ‘antichrist’ seeks to displace the Lord Jesus Christ from the centre of our lives. A verse in chapter 4 deals with this, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God; every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (ch.4 v2). Always judge what you hear in this way, do not judge a man simply by what he says but by what he leaves out. If you go to the Greek, the tense of the verb ‘is come’, is the perfect participle, expressing that the coming is not an exhausted act. Antichrist is come and lives in the flesh.
There at God’s right hand is the man, Christ Jesus, and He has carried our manhood to the very throne of God. What a wonderful Saviour we have. But there is much that occupies the Christian Church today that will divert us from Him. Anything that takes the Christ of God from the centre of God’s dealings with man is antichrist and is false. Our safety is in two things. First of all in chapter 2 v20 you will find, “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth”. That might seem to be a very dangerous verse because we might look upon ourselves as the only people who know anything! It does not mean that we have become prophetic experts, it does not mean that we have come to know all there is to know theologically, but it does mean that God is real to us and His beauty has begun to be unveiled before us. Do you see the difference? The same thought is repeated in verse 27, “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”. The whole of Divine revelation is concentrated on this one aim, to bring us to throw ourselves utterly and completely upon our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and to find everything in Him for all time. That is the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Do not merely look for a ‘baptism of the Spirit’, keep your eyes off experiences. A man who is filled with the Spirit will exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ becomes the centre of everything so far as he is concerned. This is his place of safety, “he will live in Him”.
In chapter 4 and verse 4 we read, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world”. We are in Him and He is in us. Oh the wonder of union with Christ! You and I have stood helpless whilst another went down into the valley for us and grappled with the forces of evil. Another bore our sins in His own body on the tree. Then we may quietly go forward to rest in that victory day by day and moment by moment. This is the truth of the Christian Gospel. One writer has said, ‘This is the quiet confidence of conscious strength’.
Our answer to that cry, “It is finished”, can be, ‘Yes Lord, we won!’ What a banner to take through life, and this is the very truth of God that delivers souls and brings us into the fellowship of the Father.
From: ‘Walking with God’.
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