Saturday, January 2, 2016

light and guard the Way

The Word for today:
1 John 2:3-27
a. Atheist: There is no God.
b. Deist: God set the universe in motion, then walked away and left it up to us.
c. Pantheist: God is every thing, and every thing is God.
d. Agnostic: If God even exists, I'm not sure that He/She/It can be known.
e. Gnostic: I have special inside knowledge of God.
f. Christian: We know God through His Word (the Bible) and the Word made flesh (Jesus).
g. New Age: I'm God.
h. Idolater: Any of the above, except 'f.'
The book of 1 John is diametrically opposed to a then-prevalent theory called gnosticism. (“Gnosticism” comes from the Greek word for “knowledge.”)
Gnostics believed that matter is evil and spirit is good. (Their "logic" allowed them to position themselves as deep thinkers while maintaining sinful lives.)
They denied that God could come as a man, to be our substitute in the flesh, to suffer, die, and resurrect—-going so far as to say that Jesus only seemed to have a body, but actually did not. (For example, when He walked He left no footprints!)
John directly refutes gnosticism in his gospel--
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14);
and in 1 John 4:2-3--
By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.
1 John wasn’t written to refute people who seemed hell-bent on destroying Christianity. The deception John opposed in this letter was much more subtle than outright opposition. The Gnostics wanted to ‘improve’ upon Christianity, so they played down the truth of Jesus’ humanity to fit Jesus within their Gnostic beliefs.
John’s warning is against subtle distortions in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, we may call the distortions by different names, but the process goes on. Gradually, imperceptibly, the process leads to further error.
"Test the spirits!" (1 John 4:1)
When a teacher or preacher —- perhaps under pressure to maintain membership levels, or in an attempt to make Jesus “relevant,” or to pad his popularity and paycheck —- tries to “improve” the Word of God, we are to confront and rebuke that teaching. If that doesn’t work, run. Evil is insidious, and it can permeate subliminally.
One test of a sermon or teaching is to simply count the frequency of scriptural references. That’s the test of quantity. If the preacher’s sermon is lean on scripture—if it doesn’t, in fact, lean entirely on scripture—then let the hearer beware.
Another test is whether the references to scripture are given in a straightforward manner. If the ‘doctrine’ needs to shift, shade, shape, or sugar-coat scripture, the test of doctrinal quality (faithfulness to gospel precepts) needs to be applied.
The acid test in all things spiritual is the cross. If the character of God is not depicted in terms of the literal blood, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God (see 1 John 4:2) then it may be a doctrine of darkness. If you sense error, but you are not entirely confident in your own ability to discern, then seek out a seasoned believer who has earned a reputation for continuous and disciplined scriptural study. Ask her/him.
Then learn to discern--so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles (Ephesians 4:14).
Become that "go-to" person for the next wave of God’s children. Fervently study scripture and don’t be bashful about letting others know that you do. Growing believers should be able to identify whom they can turn to for Spirit-anointed discernment (see 1 John 2:20, 27).
We’re not here to mess around. We’re not here to play “church.” We’re here to seek the living God, to know Him, and to show others the Way.
The Bible you hold in your hands is a sword, we're told (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12).
And ever since the Garden of Eden, it's been God's means to light and keep the Way for children, lost, who are looking for home:
Then he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24/KJV)
Learn to wield the sword, to light and guard the Way.

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