Keep your eye on the Church for it is the last hour.

Of course you need to keep your eye on Jesus but you will see what I mean!

As we have seen John is so keen to uphold the person of Jesus Christ and to challenge those who are dethroning Him. It is still the greatest challenge to the church today. The question is not about the achievement of the Church but the obedience to the Lordship of Christ. Anything less is an antichrist.

For 2,000 years the church has believed in an Anti-Christ figure is to come and have pointed at many people who they think may be it. John will say many have arrived already.

 “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. 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 v 18-19)

He is living in the last hour. He believes in the soon return of Jesus Christ and for John it is very soon. How does he know?

By what is happening in the church as much as outside in the world.

Either the decline or departing from the truth is what we must keep our eye on.

Maybe there was a short term mission’s team that went out preaching and teaching in the churches across the region and they departed from the truth and that is why John is writing to combat their deception. Maybe ‘they’ were leading personalities in the church who drifted away (3 John 1:9 Diotrephes) and John is saying they weren’t part of us really.

Whatever happened John could see that what was happening to the Church indicated that the antichrist was already here and they had entered the last period of time of this world.

The dangers to the Church

Having listed the privileges of the church: their sins are forgiven; they know Jesus who is from the beginning; they know God the Father; they are strong because the Word of God lives in them and so are able to overcome the evil one. Here is the reason why John is writing:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2 v 15-17)

How is it possible that the Church can move from experiencing Jesus Christ and loving each other to loving, desiring, lusting after other things?

It is possible.

Without falling into the trap of producing a list which alienates and produces arguments let me take what John says and apply to the Church today. The problem is far greater than lust and boasting. Here is what I see:

  1. The revelation the Church should have is of Jesus Christ nothing else. That has to be the strategy, the vision, the mission, the plan, the desire of our lives personally and in the Christian community. Anything less is faulty revelation. Anything that doesn’t draw us nearer to Jesus is useless. Is this glorifying Jesus? A good question.
  2. The Church should always be able to be seen to need a Saviour. We have never arrived. We need God. Some testimonies have a flavour of arrogant accomplishment where we end up scratching our heads at who actually did this amazing act. Pride tells us we are entitled to something. Pride focuses on achievement and not obedience. Pride talks to others not God.
  3. If the Church falls into the above it will die with the world. If it does not abandon its position it will live.

The next generation must not change the way Church looks simply because they feel defeated.

John comes to the younger generation (in age and including females) and he encourages them also. The children (the church) are forgiven; and to be specific, the fathers (the older generation) have known Jesus from the beginning (many years experience) and so to the younger generation:

“I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”

1 John 2:13-14 NIV

As we have seen John is passionate about the Church and preserving it from the anti-Christs within. We will see in the upcoming verses that he wants to keep the church from loving the world.

To this younger generation he is reminding them of their position in Christ as overcoming.

Leaders that want to play around with a variety of models of Church often do it out of despair, discouragement and personal battles that no one sees. They can have successful ministries and churches and then suddenly overnight they pack it all up and decide to deconstruct what God has built. Next generation don’t let it happen. You have overcome despair. You have overcome discouragement. You have overcome every personal battle that the evil one presents. You are strong because of your experience and encounter of Jesus Christ the Word or God.

Let your decisions for the future of the church come from a place of victory and not defeat.

Don’t deconstruct what Jesus has constructed. Keep fighting for the church from the place of decided victory

Is there anything more incredible than to know Jesus?

We will find out the reason why John is writing this letter soon but here he is listing those he is writing to. Firstly the children which were the believers who knew forgiveness of Jesus and who knew God. Now it is fathers. But this not gender rather it is those who are the mature believers in the church, so female also.

“I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.” (1 John 2 v 13-14)

Remember the opening? “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1 v 1) Remember the gospel? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1 v 1)

The mature of the church are those who have a genuine experience of Jesus and from the beginning. Their experience is rooted in the things of the past. This in itself is a vital message for the church today!

Out with the old and in with the new does not involve people.

If the church truly moves into a new season or a new day they will do so with the mature who have been anchored to the experience of Jesus since the beginning. The world doesn’t need a rootless church.

Is there anything more incredible for someone to hear than that their sins are forgiven?

Well there’s something to equal that certainly!

“I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father.” (1 John 2 v 12, 14)

John is writing not to children as we may think but to the Church that he calls children. The word he uses is ‘teknion’ which has training attached to it. We are a work in progress. We are growing. But one thing is clear, because of Jesus, our sins are forgiven. There is more. Again because of Jesus you know God the Father (John 14 v 9).

Pause today. Those two things are fixed. So do not doubt you are forgiven or you know God. Yes you are still in training and we will be for the rest of our life. Yes we are all sinners. But do not let the accuser influence you away from the truth that because of Jesus you are forgiven and you know God.

Hate blocks your relationship with Jesus.

Church people can claim a lot of things. They can claim to ‘know him’ (v4), to ‘live in him’ (v6) and now in v9 ‘to be in the light’ but for it all to be false. The reason being is somethings are just impossible.

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” (1 John 2 v 9-11)

Written to those within the Church:-

It is impossible to be in the light and hate at the same time.

It is impossible to get out of the darkness if you hate.

It is impossible to love and not be in the light.

It is impossible to stumble when there is nothing to sin about.

It is impossible to hate and not be in darkness.

It is impossible to receive guidance when you are blinded by darkness.

The problem is not only whether you love but whether you hate.

For John the problem was within not outside the Church.

Every generation of the church has to find a fresh movement of love

The previous generation had to discover love for and within the church. But we cannot rely on this. We have to discover it ourselves. We cannot simply presume that because we have faith we have love. John is moving into challenging those within the church who are weakening it because of their divisive ways.

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2 v 7-8)

Let’s go back to the beginning: ““‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)

It was new at the time of Moses but by the time of Jesus it was an old command.

So look what happens, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13 v 34).

It was new but by the time of John’s audience it had already become old.

John says I have an old command but I am making it new, freshening it up for this generation. ‘The content of this command is true in Jesus and for this generation and especially for us.’ That was John’s heart because since his Revelation he knew the evil present age would soon be over and the light of Jesus was still shining.

He will say more and it will provoke further. But here today, let us in our generation as we wait for the return of Christ find a freshness in the command to love one another.

Do you abide in Him?

Yesterday we answered the question ‘Do you know Him?’ We discovered that the answer is found in our experiencing Jesus and living that experience out by how we live with others. We are still in the same place. Here’s another question coming from the words in v6, ‘to live in him’. Do you abide in Him?

“But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2 v 5-6)

The Spirit is the assurance that we are in Him (we will see this later in 4:13 “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit”) but here John says it is that we walk as Jesus walked. How was that? It is in what they have already received and heard in his gospel, the account of the earthly life of Jesus.

The words to ‘live in’ him are words that mean remain, stay or abide. It indicates endurance and durability. A Church I know are going through a season of practicing the presence of God by stillness, meditation and contemplation and they have correctly named this as ‘Abide’. The outcome of this will be that they walk as Jesus walked.

Set in the context of John saying our love for God is completed if we obey his word (and there is no greater command than to love God and love others) we must never underestimate the importance and the power of loving other people.

Love like Jesus loved.

It means sacrifice. It means not putting yourself first. It means going the extra mile. It means being available for others. Burnout doesn’t happen because you love others it happens because the reason to do so becomes flawed.

As we look like Jesus in our love then we know we are abiding in Him.

Do you know Him?

God.

Is this even possible? John knows people in the church who claim they do but he thinks they are lying!

It isn’t because it is impossible to know God because we can. But how?

“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.” (1 John 2 v 3-4)

You can know a person and then you can really know someone. What’s the difference?

We already have read how John’s desire for the Church is that they encounter and experience Jesus Christ. John’s understanding of knowledge of God is also an experiential one. “We know we have come to know him …” This is ‘we are experiencing a knowing of him today because yesterday we came to know him.’ We are living out our knowing and that is proof we know.

How? By obedience to his commands. We automatically think of at least the 10 commandments. But John is thinking in his letter of something different. “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” (1 John 3:23) Two commands. Not that we are perfect in either for we fail in the latter no doubt. But we will be known by being a person who focuses their life on believing in Jesus and loving other people.

That is how we know Him. We have experienced Jesus and we are living that experience out by how we live with others.

A Church without the real Jesus Christ.

Is this possible? Yes.

It was the greatest burden of John and the threat is still very real.

That threat is not the denial of Jesus but the dethroning of Jesus Christ. It takes place around the issue of sin.

John is challenging those who dismiss sin and make it unimportant or dismiss sin as impossible for those who are spiritually enlightened or mature. We see it today. If we remove sin it leads to the dethroning of Jesus Christ. In fact with no sin there is no need of a present Saviour.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2 v 1-2)

We see his deep affection to whoever he is writing to, no one really knows but probably a group of churches who see him as their apostle. He is not saying he expects they will not sin because he has already said we all do.

We know what happens when we sin. We feel guilt, conviction and rightly so. The enemy of our soul, the opportunist, makes his move and brings condemnation and sin can lead to many destructive places. BUT … we have Jesus Christ!

The role of Jesus is as our defence, our advocate, it is beautiful to see the interplay between Jesus and the Spirit as both fulfil roles in advocacy (see his gospel 14: 16). His role is also our sacrifice.

John says that Jesus continually intercedes on our behalf using His righteous act on the cross as our defence. That is not to continually calm God’s anger down. No. This is all of God’s idea. John will say later in 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

He is doing this for us the Church and for the whole world.

But who benefits? It is those who know they are sinners.

If you are not a sinner then you don’t benefit from what Jesus Christ is doing right now.

John sees the danger that Church can try to operate without the real Jesus Christ. Without a correct view of sin then there is no benefit of the reality of Jesus Christ. Anything less dethrones Him.