Read 1 John 2:18-27
In a world with many shades of gray, remember one thing which is clear: belief in Jesus or not. There is no in between. There is no gray. We are either with Jesus, or we stand against Him. While this sounds harsh to those who prefer an all-inclusive vacation resort where anything goes, I’m afraid it’s time to face reality.
Honestly, this had to break John’s heart. From everything I’ve read by John, he was truly gifted as a shepherd-teacher. He loved his flock and cared for each one as a precious jewel. I believe He wrote these words with tears in his eyes:
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; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 1 John 2:19
John was not the least bit concerned about the number of those attending weekend services; he focused on changing lives. The cold reality is that some will hear and understand the message, however eloquently presented, while others will not. Even worse, some will discern a different message than the pastor intended! We will lose some along the way. My hope and I think John’s perspective, is that one day those we have lost will regain their perspective, recant their mistakes, and return to Christ.
So many churches have split over minor differences, disputes that arose because one party could not appreciate the other person’s perspective. John clarified that this was not some petty difference.
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. 1 John 2:21
He returns to the theme of this letter: who is the liar?
Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23
These strong words get my attention, how about you? As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is no room for gray. We either affirm or deny Jesus is the Christ. Those who choose the latter are antichrists.
These words are not designed to encourage us to mount our high-horse and puff out our chests with pride. I’m not advocating that we add this to our pious quiver of religious efficacy. Not at all. There will be those in churches who disagree on many matters, but this foundation is clear: we must acknowledge Jesus is the Christ. Everything else is second place and beyond.
This morning, Danielle Strickland’s Instagram post quoted Henri Nouwen that seems to fit this passage well:
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love, unconditional, everlasting love. Amen. Henri J.M. Nouwen
The thought that caught my eye was his second question: Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? This is a sobering reality that defuses self-righteousness completely. One day we will all stand before our Creator with open hands. When we do, what stories will we have to tell?
Jesus cleansed us from our sin, washed away our iniquities. This is the blessed assurance I have heard all my life, a hymn sung with full voice. My question is this, once all of that is washed away, what is left? May we have countless stories of love and sacrifice for the least, the lost, and the lonely. I pray that Jesus will sit next to me with a huge smile as proclaim, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Lord help us to have this posture of open hands today, long before we stand before You. Thank you for John’s reminder today:
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. 1 John 2:24-25
The promise of eternal life is somewhat difficult to wrap our minds around, but it helps keep present troubles and worries in perspective. John calls us to step back and take a broader view. I don’t know about you, but I need this reminder frequently.
John’s clear warning applies to us today as much as his young church in the first century.
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 1 John 2:26
There will be those who will try to lead us away from Christ. Some will do so in ignorance, others quite intentionally, perhaps lost in their world. We refer to these as cults, a topic worthy of discussion some other time. Suffice it to say at this point, be aware that they do exist and pray for discernment.
In John’s day the Gnostics proclaimed a different message. I briefly referred to the Gnostics in the introduction to this letter. That group is long gone, but others exist today. There are those who warp God’s word into versions that suit their desires and personal agendas. Don’t rely on Google or Wikipedia to explain the differences. Be a part of a fellowship of believers where you are free to ask questions. No topic should be off limits if we are to grow.
Remain In Him
John concludes this section with a loving reminder.
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. 1 John 2:27
We are anointed by Christ to do His work. This is a genuine privilege that demands our full attention. We’ve heard the lessons. Now it’s time to put words to action and live a life that reflects this reality.