Saturday, 23 April 2016

What does it matter what you believe, so long as you are sincere? (1 John 2:18-27)

'Sure it doesn't matter what you believe, so long as your sincere.' 

That's what many of our friends think, when it comes to religion.  Mind you, they know that you need more than sincerity in other areas of your life.  You might sincerely believe the railroad tracks were clear, and die instantly when the train hits you.  You might sincerely believe that the bottle contained medicine, and become very ill when you realise you have swallowed bleach.  A friend of mine sincerely believed that he had bought tickets to see Real Madrid, until the tickets arrived marked Athletico (and for the night they had left Spain).

In an age of spin and hypocrisy sincerity is a wonderfully attractive virtue.  But sincerity can't save you, only Jesus saves.  So we go to our friends with a message of truth that gives life, and pray that God will open their eyes to see its beauty.  And when people don't understand this message we have an obligation to correct them.

John is writing this letter to people who have been exposed to the disturbing message of false-teachers.  He warns them that it really does matter what you believe.

1.  What you believe matters (18-23)

'My dear children, this is the last hour...'

The last hour it that period of time between the Day of Pentecost and the time of Jesus' return.  We are in this last hour.  This last hour is marked by hostility towards Christians and their message.  Sometimes that hostility comes from the outside (in the form of persecution), and sometimes that hostility comes from the inside (in the form of those who distort the message). 

Now in this last hour there are antichrists, that is people who oppose the person and message of Jesus.  John refers to the false-teachers with this strong language.  'They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.'  They had claimed to be Christians, they had tried to move the church away from the truth, and then they had left with their followers.

What had these false-teachers believed?  We have seen that they claimed that sin does not matter, that they had no sin and that they do not sin.  They didn't see their need of grace and mercy.  Now we see that they deny that Jesus is the Christ.  Later in this letter we will see that they refused to acknowledge that Jesus is from God.

2.  Beware of those who would lead you astray (24-27)

John says, 'I am writing these things about those who are trying to lead you astray.'  False-teachers always seek a following.  Be on your guard!  Their teaching is often subtle.  It sound tolerant to say all religions led to God, but Jesus said I am the way, the truth and life, no one comes to the Father but by me.  It sound wonderful to talk about spirituality, but if that spirituality is not centred on the cross it is nothing.

John point to two things that will keep you from false-teaching: the person of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the gospel.  'You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth' (20).  The Holy Spirit guides us into the truth, and he will never guide us away from the scriptures that he inspired.

See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.  If it does, you will also remain in the Son and in the Father' (24).  The Bible isn't simply a book of knowledge or a manual telling you how to live.  The Bible is a living word that introduces you to a person.  These truths enrich our relationship with our loving and mighty God.

Just before we begin to rap up, notice that in verse twenty-seven he talks of not needing anyone to teach you.  He cannot mean that they don't need to be taught, for then he would not be writing this letter to them.  Nor can he mean that they don't need those gifted to teach the word, which Ephesians tells us are given to build up the church.  The simply point is that they have no need of the sort of teaching the false-teachers were offering.  Be careful who you listen to!


'It doesn't matter what you believe, so long as you are sincere'.  All the writers of the Bible would strongly disagree.  Truth matters!

I have an agenda, but it is not a hidden agenda.  I want you to see the beauty of the gospel, and I want you to never forget that the cross is the heart of that gospel.

The apostle Paul summed up his message saying, 'I preach Christ crucified' (1 Corinthians 1:23).  If you understand the cross you will never agree with the false-teachers when they say sin does not matter, Jesus is not the Christ and Jesus is not from God.  If the cross is not at the heart of our belief, then we don't believe the message of Jesus.   This is important to remember for truth matters.

I remember watching a friend struggle to hold back the tears as he read the following words from Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson:
'When we think of Christ dying on the cross we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to Himself.  We should almost think that God loved us more than He loves His Son.  We cannot measure His love by any other standard.  He is saying to us, “I love you this much.”  The cross is the heart of the gospel; it makes the gospel good news.  Christ died for us; He has stood in our place before God’s judgement seat; He has borne our sins.  God has done something on the cross which we could never do for ourselves.  But God does something to us as well as for us through the cross.  He persuades us that He loves us.'

(I began this sermon by reading )

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