Personal Religious Experience v Established Orthodox Belief.

Of course they are not necessarily enemies. PRE must lay gently over EOB!

But for John we know he is protecting the Church from those who lead astray with false teaching and prophecies, he calls them ‘antichrists’. Simply because they are denying the orthodox tradition of the person of Jesus Christ and also because of their lack of love for others.

Often we are drawn away to side issues that the world wants to make as supremely important because it involves their lifestyles. There isn’t anything wrong with that providing we come from the premise of this one question: Did God become human in Jesus Christ?

If He didn’t then everything else is a side issue and not relevant.

If He did then what does that mean for the way I live?

“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 John 4 v 5-6)

John sets the 2 sides parallel, ‘them’ and ‘us’; the ‘world’ and ‘God’; ‘the Spirit of truth’ and the ‘spirit of falsehood’.

PRE is always easier than the EOB’s Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the impact on our lives.

PRE is set within the world we create for ourselves and EOB is from another world.

The speech of PRE is shaped by the world and the the speech of EOB is Christ-shaped.

Everyone can say they are having a personal religious experience but it must sit upon the foundation of established orthodox belief. That’s good for John’s generation and for 2023.

The Holy Spirit in you is far greater than any spirit that is against you!

John was not just an apostle, evangelist and one of the leaders of the early church. He was absolutely a Pastor with a Pastor’s heart! And we see this coming through this letter. I have a Pastor’s heart and I understand what it is longing for the very best for your people. Sometimes that longing involves tears and sleepless nights. It means going extra miles and at times pleading that they remain in relationship with Jesus. Most Pastors with that role know these feelings. Look at what John says:-

2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. 

2:12 I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.

2:28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

3:7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.

3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

5:21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Can you see his heart?

So here is our next verse in 1 John 4 v 4 “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.”

Briefly, John is referring to the ‘antichrists-charismatic-dethroners-of-Jesus’ who were casting doubts on the Christian’s salvation. They have left the church and John views them as of the world.

The Pastor pleads: you are from God, you are not like them; you have overcome them, how? The answer is of course that they have rejected their teaching and have resisted their pressure. But there is an even better answer: the Spirit within them is greater than the antichrist spirit in those people.

Today, what are you facing? What pressure is around you? What is casting doubts into your mind? What is seeking to lead you astray? You have and you will again overcome because of the Holy Spirit in you. What spirit comes against you trying to dethrone the Lordship of Jesus? Rise up, stay, hold on and don’t give way, for the Holy Spirit is your advocate, your helper and simply is far greater than anything that stands against you!

6 checks so that you are not deceived.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 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 the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4: 1-3)

… do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

  1. Not everything you hear can be trusted and believed blindly.
  2. Not everything that is inspirational is from Him even though it might make you feel good.
  3. Not everything that is false looks false at first otherwise there wouldn’t be a possibility of being led astray.

… 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.

4. Everything must be filtered through this one test: Jesus is the Christ in flesh sent from God.

5. Every religious experience must come under the submission of the orthodox teaching of and about Jesus Christ.

… This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

6. Everything the Spirit of Christ does points to Jesus and if it doesn’t then it is the spirit of the antichrist.

7 questions to know you are on the right track.

Ever wonder if God is pleased with you? Ever have doubts? How do you know that what people claim to be is real?

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3 v 18-24)

  1. Are you reaching out in love to others? let us not love with words or speech but with actions
  2. Are you defeating the meanness of your own heart? how we set our hearts at rest in his presence (the heart is always deceitful and will fight against generosity).
  3. Are you following the greatness of God or the greatness of your feelings? we know that God is greater than our hearts
  4. Are you confident when you come before God? we have confidence before God
  5. Are you bold enough to ask God because you have been asked and have given? and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 
  6. Are you believing enough to look like Jesus in your dealings with people? The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them.
  7. Are you receiving the Spirit? We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

6 lessons on what love is

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3 v 16-18)

  1. Love is practical, it meets needsAnd we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions.
  2. Love starts with your awareness of othersand sees a brother or sister in need.
  3. Love gives from your own resourceIf anyone has material possessions.
  4. Where there is love there is giving, this is always the expectationhow can the love of God be in that person? 
  5. Love needs action as well as wordsDear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
  6. Love is the genuine experience of Jesus Christbut with … truth.

Sunday small thought: Love hurts

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  (1 John 3 v16)

Love hurt Jesus.

The only hurt in church should be that of love.

4 definitions of what love is not

Love – it really does matter. It isn’t an option. It is orthodox. It hasn’t changed. It won’t.

“For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (1 John 3 v 11) It isn’t about you and Jesus. It is about you, Jesus and others.

12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 

13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 John 3 v 11-15)

Here are 4 definitions of what love is not from these verses:

  1. Love is not like ‘Cain’ v12. They knew the story of Genesis 4 very well.  What consumes you will plot your course. The jealousy of Cain is the desire to be the top gun. Those narcissistic leaders who have abused those they were meant to shepherd no nothing of love. Their sin will get the better of them and will destroy them.
  2. Love is not all around us v13. So the song goes. But love is not everywhere I go. John sees the ‘world’ as the AntiChrists he has spoken of, they used to be part of the Church but they have abandoned the orthodox teaching of Jesus and love for His people. And now? They hate who they used to fellowship with. Just accept it. People you once fellowshipped with will hate you and it will be centred around who Jesus is and/or the orthodox teaching we have known from the beginning.
  3. Love is not death v 14. To remain in death is to not have moved from condemnation. There is a death kind of life which condemns and remains in condemnation. Though they may say they know God, it is impossible to do so whilst remaining in death.
  4. Love is not anger v 15. You cannot love and stay in anger towards those who follow Jesus. The longer you stay in anger the longer you look less like God who poured out his righteous anger onto Himself on the cross. Jesus challenged the hypocrisy of feeling proud that you haven’t committed physical murder but you have ruined the reputation of someone by stabbing them in their back. His teaching in the gospels is that anger leads to judgment for murder.

7 effects when you fail to love those in the Church

When hate and division enters the church it does more damage than we realise and it really is not worth it!

John has been clear about the sin he is seeing and it comes from the ‘AntiChrists’ who are deceiving the Church to not see Jesus as the Christ, not to hold on to his teaching and also they were demonstrating a lack of love to others.

“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” (1 John 3:7-10)

The failure to love:

  1. Will lead you astray (from abiding in Christ). V7
  2. Moves the one who perhaps thinks others are the sinner to actually be the one in sin. V7
  3. Means the work of the devil is being done. V8
  4. Belittles the work of Christ. V8
  5. Exposes your Christian status. V9
  6. Grieves the seed (the Spirit) within. V9
  7. Reveals whether the spiritual birth was truly of God. V10

5 evidences to know you are remaining in Christ

“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning”. These few words are occupying my mind this morning. They have caused many Christians to consider giving up. How is it ever possible to abide in Christ? John is either meaning it is possible to live a life without sin (though 1:9 would indicate otherwise); or he is speaking of habitual sin using the words ‘keeps on’; or (as I believe) John in writing to oppose those who are trying to lead the church astray from the orthodox position of who Jesus is and his teaching and the outworking of that being seen in our love for others is saying that no one can abide in Christ without love.

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3 v 4-6)

So from these verses here are 5 evidences to know a person is remaining in Christ:

  1. The choice of love. Everyone who sins breaks the law. It is a choice we make.
  2. You know the consequences if you do not love. sin is lawlessness. Being unloving places us in opposition to God.
  3. You know Jesus came to make it possible to love. you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. The cross is where we receive love.
  4. You know He is love. And in him is no sin. No matter what has happened or what the person has done. Jesus always loves.
  5. You loving others is crucial to your relationship with Jesus. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

5 more lessons about remaining in Christ

Last night a friend called me and told me of the struggle they were going through. My response was simply this: ‘Hold on; don’t rush ahead with your thoughts; abide in Christ; remain in Him; wait; stay.”

Maybe you are storm-tossed today just as John’s people were. The Church were being attacked from within by deceptive teachers and from outside by the ongoing persecution. John continues his call to remain in Christ:

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3: 1-3)

This morning, whatever the circumstance, remain in Christ and that is to:

  1. To know/experience the Father’s extravagant love. It outweighs everything we could ever experience. See what great love the Father has lavished on us.
  2. To be secured in my identity of what the Father calls me … His child. He calls me this. He gives this title to me. that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
  3. To willingly pay the cost that the world I am in will be out of sync with me. They will not understand me or know me because they do not know who I know. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 
  4. To not give up. We are a work in progress. It is not over. we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is
  5. To get ready for the coming of Jesus by doing what we can to be like Him today. purify themselves, just as he is pure.