THE BOOK OF FIRST JOHN
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978,
1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There are several emphases in the Book of First John. One of the primary emphases is the exhortation to Christian people to cease sinning, to keep the commandments of Christ. When we walk in the light of Godís will we have fellowship with God and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, purifies us from all sin.
Table of Contents
THE BOOK OF FIRST JOHN
My dear children, I write this to you so you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defenseóJesus Christ, the Righteous One. (I John 2:1)
There are several errors in Christian thinking at the present time. I believe the primary misunderstanding has to do with the nature of the Divine salvation.
The concept is that we are saved by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is true, although placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ often is defined as accepting mentally the theological facts concerning Christ. Mental acceptance of the facts of theology, even though absolutely correct, is not salvation. They are an orientation to the process of salvation.
The primary misunderstanding, however, has to do with the goal of placing our faith in Christ. The goal is seen as eternal residence in the spirit Paradise (Heaven) after oneís death. Eternal residence in Heaven is not the goal of salvation; neither is escape from Hell. People are invited to believe in Jesus Christ so after they die they will not go to Hell but to Heaven. "There is a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun."
This perception of what Christ is all about misses the point. We come to Christ for the purpose of being forgiven, and then transformed morally. Escape from Hell results from moral transformation, not from belief in Christ. Entrance into the Paradise of God results from moral transformation, not from belief in Christ.
I am aware the package is not as neatly defined as this, but the essence of what I am saying is true.
Because we view belief in Christ as a ticket to admit us to Heaven (where many sinners would not want to go if they knew what Heaven is like), we do not place nearly enough emphasis on being made new creation in Christ. "Just get us to Heaven. It doesnít matter how we behave."
One can see immediately the folly of contemporary thinking. If Heaven were filled with unchanged people it would not be Heaven, would it?
We recognize that somehow at some point people must be transformed morally, otherwise Paradise would be no different from what we are experiencing now. There still would be the problem of destructive relationships; and where there are destructive relationships there can be no "Heaven."
I think people are aware intuitively that "when we get to Heaven there will be no sin." But how do they account for this?
By virtue of the fact that after we die we cannot sin anymore? There is no passage of Scripture that tells us we cannot sin after we die. Sin began in Heaven. Sin is basically spiritual in nature. Flesh and blood are morally neutral. It is the sinful nature that causes us to sin against God and people, and the sinful nature is spiritual. After we die we are judged. No passage of which I am aware states that after we die physically we are set free from sin.
Some have theorized that when the Lord returns He will remove the sinful nature from us. There is no Scripture for this either. When the Lord returns we will receive the good we have done and the bad we have done. Remember the parable of the talents!
Telling people that if they "accept Christ" they will not be held responsible for their actions produces immoral behavior. If we inform an individual that if he will take "the four steps of salvation" he will not be held accountable for his behavior, how do you think he is going to behave?
The reason worldly scientists and teachers embrace the hypothesis of evolution is that they do not want to be held accountable for their actions after they die. They donít want there to be a God!
Does the Bible tell us at what point the Lord is going to deal with the sinful nature of His people?
Yes, it does. In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew the Lord informs us that in the last days the messengers of God will remove all sin and sinners from His Kingdom.
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:40,41)
At the end of the age the messengers will be sent out to remove from Christís Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
I understand contemporary theologians will insist that the above passage does not apply to Christians because we are "saved by grace." By this they mean God will permit sin in His Kingdom because of grace. They simply are not thinking clearly. But the modern doctrine of "grace" (which we are not interpreting as Paul meant it) is so deeply rooted, so appealing to the human being, that only those who are fervent disciples of the Lord Jesus will be able to escape its destructive influence.
There are passages in the Book of First John that flatly deny the current doctrine of "salvation by faith alone." No matter how one twists and turns, he cannot maintain that we can continue in sin and still have fellowship with God, and declare at the same time that he believes the Book of First John is the inspired Word of God.
Salvation is a process, not a belief system. The process of salvation moves us from Satan to God. It destroys out of us the sinful nature and replaces the sinful nature with the Substance and Nature of Jesus Christ. Also it teaches us concerning the Person of God, the ways of God, the will of God, and Godís eternal purpose in Jesus Christ.
God absolutely requires that all saved people perform His will completely and perfectly. We do not arrive at such obedience in a moment, but this always is our goal. As long as there is disobedience in us, there is darkness and death in us. Obedience to God, righteousness, and resurrection life are parts of one whole. That whole is Christ.
Hopefully as we look closely at the text of the Book of First John we will notice the emphasis on keeping Christís commandments. We will see also the mechanism that forgives our sin, and then removes the sinful nature from us.
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 touchedóthis we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (I John 1:1)
The Lord Jesus Christ was in the beginning with God and partook of the Deity of God. All things were made by Him, including all the heavens and all of its creatures, and after that the physical creation and its creatures.
John and his fellow apostles heard the Word made flesh. They saw Him. Their hands touched Him. This made them true witnesses of the Son of God.
It is interesting that John refers to Christ as "the Word of life." We need to emphasize this aspect of Christ more than we do. He Himself is the Resurrection. He Himself is the Life of God.
Our religion presents the Divine salvation as escape from Hell and residence in the spirit Paradise. The truth is, whether we end up in Hell or in Heaven depends on the way we have behaved ourselves, not on our religious beliefs. The wicked belong in Hell and the righteous belong in Heaven. I think we forget this sometimes in our effort to make proselytes.
If, when you think about the Lord, you picture escape from Hell, then you have an incorrect perspective. You should be thinking about Divine Life.
All of us descendants of Adam were born spiritually dead. We are intelligent dust. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life. We come to Him that we might escape sin and death and gain Divine Life. We gain a portion of life initially when we first receive Him as our Savior. Then each day spiritual darkness and death, and spiritual light and life, struggle for dominion over our personality. We choose each day whether death or life gain the victory.
The fact that we are fighting to lay hold on eternal life needs to be emphasized more than it is. Numerous Christian people are at ease spiritually, waiting to die and go to Heaven. Residence in Heaven is not the goal, resurrection life is the goal. We have to gain Christ, as Paul said, in order to attain to the resurrection that is unto eternal life.
The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. (I John 1:2)
"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men," John wrote in his Gospel.
We usually do not think of life as being light, do we? We have to ask ourselves, "What is light?" Light is that which enables us to distinguish what is around us.
In the beginning of the physical creation, God separated the light from the darkness. Since in the physical world darkness is nothing more than the absence of light, the fact that God separated the light from the darkness implies that we are speaking of something more than physical light.
I think prior to the physical creation, the angels were ignorant of moral law. They had no experience with right or wrong, perhaps, until Satan rebelled against the Father. They were unable to distinguish what was good and what was evil in their moral environment. They had no "light."
God then chose Christ, separating Him from the angels that Christ Himself had created. Christ loved righteousness and hated wickedness. God established Christ as God, saying, " Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom."
Thus Christ became our God whom we are to obey and worship; He also became our Light.
When there is light we can see with our eyes the facts of our physical environment. But it is only as the Life of Jesus Christ is formed in us that we can discern good and evil. In this manner His life is the light of men.
The Life of Christ is formed in us as we turn away from the acts of the sinful nature, putting them to death through the Holy Spirit, and then are fed the flesh and blood of Christ in the spirit realm.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:3)
John wrote to us what he had seen and heard so we could have fellowship with him, with the Father, and with the Son.
The reason we receive Christ as our Savior is that we may have fellowship with the Father and with Christ. By making mansions in Heaven our goal, we have missed the point. Our goal is not an expensive dwelling in the spirit realm, it is fellowship with God. From what we hear the believers say we might conclude they are more interested in the material wealth they hope to receive when they die than they are in the Persons of God and Christ! How this must disappoint the Lord!
Fellowship with God is an important concept. If we make going to Heaven our goal, and grace as the means of getting there, then we are not going to be able to resist the terrific compulsions to sin that exist in our sinful nature and in the American culture.
But if our goal is fellowship with God and Christ, then we realize instinctively we cannot continue in sin, using grace as our excuse.
I donít know, though, how reliable our instincts are anymore. Today it is being taught that once we "accept Christ" God cannot see our sins, He can see only the righteousness of Christ. Of course, there is no basis in the Scriptures for this belief. But such a doctrine does make it possible for us to have fellowship with God and still continue in sin.
Letís think about the consequences of the current doctrine that God does not see our behavior, only the righteousness of Christ.
We can fornicate and commit adultery with abandon. It is regrettable that we do, of course, but God is walking with us all the while. He sees only the moral purity of Christ while we are fornicating and committing adultery.
We can lie all we wish. God walks with us and has glad fellowship with us while we are lying. He sees only the truth of Christ.
We can harbor hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness against a fellow Christian. There is no problem. God rejoices over us because He sees Christ all the while.
I realize such a scenario is not drawn out like this ordinarily, but it is the logical extension of current Christian teaching.
And then we wonder why America is having so much trouble these days!
It is absolutely true that we come to Christ in the filthy garments of our sinful nature. Christ spreads his royal robe around us and accepts us as we are. Make no mistakeóthis is the truth, and it is preached well in Christian churches.
The fatal error that is made is that this is the end of the work of salvation. From now on God "accepts us in the Beloved." There is nothing more to be done.
No doctrine could be better suited to demolish the Kingdom of God!
The truth is, the moment we receive Christ, asking forgiveness on the basis of the blood atonement, the Holy Spirit begins to point out to us the sins we are committing. One by one, as the Holy Spirit leads and empowers, we are to confess our sins to God, denouncing them and turning away from them with all the strength we have. This is the process of salvation, the program in which we are delivered from sin and changed into the image of Jesus Christ.
As we are being delivered from the chains of sin we are being drawn into the very Center of Godís Holy Being. This is where Jesus always is, and this is where He is inviting us to abide. Our primary goal is twofold: change into the image of Christ, and untroubled rest in the center of Godís Person and will.
God can have fellowship with us even though we still are not pure, as long as we are continuing in the program of transformation. The blood of Jesus Christ enables God to overlook our darkness. We are on a detour while the highway is under repair.
But if we are not becoming a new creation of righteous behavior, if we are continuing in our worldly manner, not confessing and renouncing our sins, then the blood no longer is making up the difference. We are sinning willfully, and this God never will accept.
As long as we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit, we can have fellowship with God. But when we are continuing in our old manner of life, we cannot possibly have fellowship with God. Would we make God like ourselves? This is what current teaching, in ignorance, is attempting to do.
We write this to make our joy complete. (I John 1:4)
I think one of the biggest hindrances to people who would like the benefits of the victorious Christian life, but are afraid to step out of the boat, so to speak, is that they picture a joyless existence. This may be especially true of young people.
"If I give myself wholly to Christ, doing only His will, confessing all my sins, I wonít have any fun." Also, there are Christians who do not believe it is possible to do Godís will. "It is far too hard, and this is why we have to be saved by grace."
These are lies of Satan. Godís way always leads to joy. Satanís way always leads to despair, corruption, and death.
This was the issue in the beginning, wasnít it? Satan persuaded Eve she would be happier if she disobeyed God.
It is the way of the transgressor, not of the obedient person, that is hard and painful.
Do victorious saints ever have pain, trouble, confusion, severe crises? Most assuredly they do. But they also have a deeply settled peace and assurance that joy will come eventually.
Do sinners ever have pain, trouble, confusion, severe crises? Most assuredly they do. But they do not have a deeply settled peace and assurance that joy will come in the morning.
Figure it out for yourself. What is the sensible path to take?
This present world is a suburb of Hell. It is under the Divine curse. There is no way we can make a paradise out of this world and always be happy in this life except by forsaking our integrity and betraying those who trust us. Even then life will catch up to us, and we will end up in unbearable remorse.
After the new Christian has suffered for a while there come peace and joy that the world cannot experience. Certainly discipline is required. But the discipline leads to freedom from destructive urges. The person who refuses to discipline his lusts, passions, and appetites will exist in chains, having thirsts that never can be quenched.
Only in Jesus Christ is there lasting joy and peace in the present world, although there also is tribulation. The healthy, growing Christian accepts the deferral of his desires, noting that there always are flowers to pick along the way. And in the end there is eternal love, joy, and peace.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. (I John 1:5,6)
The above two verses are the first of several passages that warn the believer about walking in darkness, in sin. A warning concerning continuing in sin is one of the primary emphases of this epistle.
There is no darkness in God. Darkness is that which is evil, destructive, self-seeking, unmerciful, stubborn, treacherous, harsh, vindictive, unforgiving. Light is that which is good, constructive, concerned about the welfare of others, merciful, gentle, faithful, kind.
God is always just, always righteous. He dwells in a moral purity not possible to adamic man except through the influence of Jesus Christ.
Now notice: if we claim to have fellowship with God, and are evil, destructive, self-seeking, unmerciful, stubborn, treacherous, harsh, vindictive, and unforgiving, then we are lying. We are not of the truth.
But today we would say, "It does not matter because I am saved by a sovereign grace. I can be self-seeking, unmerciful, and unforgiving, yet I can have fellowship with God." According to the Bible we are lying. We are not living by the truth.
Why would the Apostle John have to say this? Undoubtedly because there were Christians even in his day who were interpreting the Apostle Paul to mean we can walk in spiritual darkness and yet have fellowship with God and be saved. Otherwise, why would he bring up this matter in this fashion?
Todayís Christian preaching and teaching is largely a lie. We are leaving people with the impression they can behave like Satan and have fellowship with the Lord, on the basis of grace. If this were true, why would the Apostle John say such things?
No, we have been deceived and we need to repent and return to the ways of righteousness and holiness. We need to stop telling people that they can "accept Christ" and then they will go to Heaven by grace. We should tell them instead that God will forgive them, but He insists they allow Him to change their behavior.
We have not received the love of the truth, and so God has sent a strong delusion on us. Will we recognize this before our nation is destroyed?
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
Walking in the light means we are walking in the Presence of the Father and doing His will. We are not practicing known sin. If we are walking in the light we have fellowship with God.
If we are walking in Godís will and not practicing known sin, the blood of Godís Son purifies us from all sin.
We have to think carefully about the word "purifies."
Does this mean if we are obeying God to the best of our knowledge the blood is forgiving the sins of which we are ignorant? I think it means this.
What if we as a Christian are not walking in the light of Godís Person and will, does the blood of Jesus forgive our sins? I donít think verse seven supports this common viewpoint.
Is there an inkling here that the blood of Godís Son also purifies us from our sinful nature? I think so. It is my opinion that as we continue to walk in the light, turning away from the acts of the sinful nature, the blood of Christ not only forgives all of our sins but also begins the long process of destroying our sinful nature. If this were not true, then we forever would be bound with sin and forced to live in an untransformed moral state, injuring everyone around us.
The blood of the Lamb of God is the Divine Virtue that saves us.
The blood of the Lamb of God protects us and our family when Godís judgments are in the land.
The blood of the Lamb of God makes an atonement for our sins so Godís justice is upheld, and his wrath is pacified.
The blood of the Lamb of God works with the Spirit of God in destroying our sinful nature, removing it from us.
The blood of the Lamb of God, along with His flesh, nourishes and builds up the Substance and virtue of Christ in us.
The blood of the Lamb of God and His flesh are our resurrection life in us and will make alive our mortal body in the last day.
I believe God wants us totally free from the bondages of sin, and if we keep turning away from the acts of our sinful nature, as the Holy Spirit guides and empowers us, the time will arrive when we are totally free from the compulsions of sin. And why not? Is our sinful nature anything more than a finite number of nasty little bondages? Are we an inexhaustible well of corruption? I donít think so.
Even if we were an inexhaustible source of darkness, there is so much power in the Lord Jesus Christ He could enable us to escape from this dungeon of corruption.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (I John 1:8)
There have been Christian movements that have professed to be freed from sin root and branch, on the basis of a single experience. I think this is doubtful. My own experience of moral deliverance has been little by little, line upon line, command upon command. I know there still is darkness in me, but nothing like what was true when I began on the way of repentance.
I can see definite progress over a period of years. I can see that I am becoming a new creature. Can Christ finish the work in me? I believe He can. Can He finish the work in you? I believe He can. But we are going to have to stop using Godís grace as an alternative to righteous behavior.
We Christians have a sinful nature in us. This is a scriptural and observable fact. But the solution is not to wave the wand of grace and pretend God does not see what we are doing. The solution is to follow the Holy Spirit each day as He guides and enables us in the program of redemption, which consists in part of recognizing our sins, confessing them as such, and turning away from them with all the vigor we can muster.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
Every once in a while we come across a verse in the Bible that sums up the operation of redemption in a practical manner. I John 1:9 is one such verse.
"If we confess our sins." Confession is more than a silent acknowledgment. It is a proclamation made before God, and sometimes in the presence of people if the circumstances indicate, that we have committed a sin.
The problem with the Catholic confessional, as I understand it, is it can become merely a listing of what we have done. Then we are instructed how to make an atonement for our sins. However, we do not need to make an atonement. The atonement has been accomplished on the cross. What we must do is to pray until God gives us the strength to turn away from our sinful behavior. I may be mistaken but I think the Catholic confessional assumes there can be no true deliverance
We must be specific. "I have lied; I have stolen; I have cheated on my wife; I have spoken hatefully; I have unforgiveness in my heart; I am addicted to drugs, or alcohol, or cigarettes; I am addicted to pornography; I have molested my child; I have slandered someone; I am covetous and am not praying, not reading my Bible, and not using my talents in the Kingdom of God."
You have to be clear and merciless. You actually are judging the enemy that is in you. If you are clear and decisive, the spirit realm will hear you. You must be diligent and vigorous when you are confessing a sin to God.
You must be specific. It does no good to announce that you are a miserable sinner. Everyone knows that, including God and Satan. Rather you have to cite the actual sinful behavior so an act of judgment takes place.
When you straightforwardly specify what you have done, God is faithful and just. He will forgive what you have confessed and purify you from all unrighteousness.
Now think for a moment. If by "purify you from all unrighteousness" God meant "forgive you of all unrighteousness," then the verse would be saying God is faithful and just to forgive you and to forgive you. This is what I meant by saying the term "purify" as used here means more than merely forgive. It means God will begin to deal with your sinful nature.
Your sin is forgiven instantly. However, purification from all unrighteousness requires a period of time for its accomplishment. You have to walk it out with the Holy Spirit. You have to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Your salvation includes the destruction of your sinful nature. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, not just forgive them. And we can thank God for that!
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (I John 1:10)
The sixth chapter of the Book of Romans tells us to count ourselves dead to sin. I think this exhortation is sometimes viewed as meaning that once we count ourselves crucified with Christ we no longer are tempted to sin; or if we do sin it doesnít matter.
But the truth is, we are not to claim we have not sinned. Rather we are to confess our sins. This does not mean confess we are a sinner or confess that we used to be a sinner. It means todayóright nowówhen we as a Christian sin we are to confess that sin so the Holy Spirit can deal with it.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)
God does not want us to pretend we are not sinning. Nor does He want us to take the attitude it does not matter if we are sinning. God wants us to confess our sins, when they are brought to our attention, and stop committing them.
I know the accuser will say it is not possible for us to gain victory over sin. He is lying. It is entirely possible. Not only is it possible to gain victory over sin, it is absolutely necessary if we are to inherit the Kingdom of God. There is no sin in the Kingdom of God!
We have been taught for so long that sin is an impossible monster that no one can confront successfully. Therefore, many Christians do not take advantage of the power there is in Jesus Christ. They donít even try to gain victory.
I guess the best procedure is to do what I John 1:9 states and see if God will give you victory. Itís worth a try, isnít it? You might be very pleasantly surprised!
My dear children, I write this to you so you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defenseóJesus Christ, the Righteous One. (I John 2:1)
Now here is a decent and practical Christian attitude. God does not want us to sin. When we do sin, Christ prays for us.
There is an assumption here, I believe, that sinful behavior is not to be regarded as acceptable behavior. The idea is that we are not to sin. But if we do stumble, Christ defends us through intercessory prayer. As far as I can see, there certainly is not a hint here of a defeated attitude, nor a suggestion that we are doomed to keep on sinning. The exception occurs when we sin. "If anybody does sin." And I think this is healthy. We are not to sin, but if we are overtaken in a sin, then we know Christ will intercede for us.
By the same token, if we are living a careless Christian life, not caring whether or not we sin, then we cannot expect that Christ will pray for us. Why should he? We are not doing our part by confessing and turning away from our sins We are not putting them to death through the Holy Spirit.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2)
Christ made an atonement for the sins of the whole world. Think of it? An atonement has been made for everyoneís sins. The guilt of sin no longer is an issue. The issue is the removal of the sinful nature from the creation.
Have everyoneís sins been forgiven? Potentially, yes. Actually, no. Why not? Because we have to ask for the forgiveness to be applied to us.
So it is with every aspect of redemption. We cannot assume because some work of redemption has been mentioned in the New Testament it automatically applies to us. However, Christians often do this.
For example, the New Testament says if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. All the old has passed away. All is new and of God.
Christians suppose once they have accepted the salvation formula they are a new creation. It isnít so. To become a new moral creation in Christ requires years of patient cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
Another example is Paulís statement that he is crucified with Christ, nevertheless He lives. Yet not he, but Christ lives in him. Christians believe this is true of them because they have "accepted Christ." Paul is speaking of a maturity gained through years of tribulations. It may be a fact that few Christians have attained to that exchanged life.
Yes, the atonement has been made for all. But the atonement applies only as we lay hold on it. The same is true for all other dimensions of redemption. We are to take nothing for granted, but are to go to God and ask that the coveted blessing might be applied to us. If we will keep on praying, God will keep on answering.
God likes to be asked!
We know we have come to know him if we obey his commands. (I John 2:3)
I donít think you would hear this preached very often in the American churches: the only way we can be sure we have come to know Christ is if we are obeying His commands.
The Lord Jesus said this several times. He said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."
The Lord Jesus commanded us to love one another. He commanded us also to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. He talked to us about forgiving those who sinned against us. He advised us to not worry about our life, what we are to eat and drink. He cautioned us about judging other people. He invited us to ask, seek, and knock that we might obtain from God what we need.
In addition, the Lord added numerous commandments through the writings of His Apostles.
The present preaching of the Gospel leaves one with the idea that we are not expected to keep the commandments of Christ; that it is not possible to keep them and so we must be saved by grace. This attitude is contrary to the statements of the Apostle John, and Christ Himself.
The fullest expression of the new covenant occurs when we keep Godís eternal moral laws on the basis of the holy, obedient Nature of Christ having been formed in us. But this inner expression cannot possibly be attained to unless we first, in our adamic nature, pray each day that we might gain the strength to do what the New Testament commands.
I think the problem arises in part from the concept of Dispensationalism. This is a philosophy that teaches that the new covenant is entirely different from the old covenant: the Jews had to keep the commandments of the Old Testament, but under the new covenant we are not obligated to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles because these commandments are there only to show us our need to be saved by grace.
There has been a change in dispensation, this unscriptural philosophy postulates. The Gentile Church (an unscriptural entity) will be brought to Heaven by grace, a salvation not revealed in the Old Testament. Can you imagine cutting the Bible in two like this?
Dispensational thought indeed is a horrendous error. The difference between the two covenants is not that God has changed His mind about the necessity for godly behavior on the part of His children. The difference is that under the new covenant the eternal moral law of God is not written on tables of stone but on our mind and heart. Why? So we donít obey Godís moral laws? Such confusion! No. So we will obey them from a transformed nature.
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19,20)
God gave us a new heart and a new Spirit so we will follow His decrees and be careful to keep His laws. Why else would He give us a new covenant?
As I said, the transformed nature will not be developed unless we read the New Testament and, through the guidance and enablement of the Holy Spirit, do what we have been commanded.
The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:4)
When I read these words of John I gain the impression that there must have been some people who were teaching, just as they do today, that we can know Christ and have fellowship with Him without doing what He commanded. "Why do you call me Lord! Lord! and donít do what I say?" This sort of thing. Building our house on the sand by not doing what He instructed us to do.
So the Apostle John is telling us that those who preach faith alone, apart from keeping Christs commandments, are liars. The truth is not in them. They have been deceived. As a result we have spiritual babies in many of our churches who do not know the difference between good and evil; who have neither the strength nor the willingness to embrace the good and reject the evil. Yet, according to the writer of the Book of Hebrews, such knowledge, willingness, and strength are what it means to grow in Christ.
But if anyone obeys his word, Godís love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: (I John 2:5)
How do we know we are in Christ? We know we are in Christ to the extent we obey what He said.
Sometimes it is maintained that there is nothing we can do about sin, we have to wait until Christ comes and delivers us. With this attitude we will wait until we die in a nursing home and never be delivered!.
There are numerous sins Christians commit that they can just stop doing.
We can stop lying if we want to. We can stop committing adultery if we want to. We can stop swearing if we want to. We can stop gossiping if we want to. We can stop criticizing if we want to.
Sometimes there are powerful demonic bondages, such as homosexual behavior; watching pornography on the Internet; smoking; drinking beer or whiskey; doing drugs. Believers may find such bondages overwhelming. They wish they could stop but they are tightly bound. They are the slaves of these sins.
The thing to do is to name the bondage clearly. Decide in your heart that you really want to get rid of it. Then go to people you trust and ask for prayer.
There is no bondage that will not yield to the power of Christ. The reason Christians continue to be bound is that they are not certain they really want to be delivered. As long as that is true, no amount of prayer will prevail, in most instances.
You see, we donít get tough enough with our sins. If you are going to make progress in deliverance, you have to be desperate, vehement, and determined. You have to come against the behavior with all the strength you possess, in the meanwhile calling on the name of Jesus for help. When you do this, you will be delivered!
Perhaps you have a pet, or work with animals. You may have found out that animals will not obey you until you show them that you are determined. It is the same way with the demons. If you are double-minded you will get nowhere.
Do you want to remain bound? Then you will remain bound even if you are prayed for. However, you can always pray for the desire to be delivered.
Do you want to be delivered? You can, through the Lord Jesus Christ, from every sin that you are willing to confess and renounce. The Lord is waiting for you, just like He waits for the sinner to receive the atonement already provided for him or her.
Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (I John 2 6)
Here is another verse that sums up the Christian redemption, and sums up the Book of First John as well.
I understand Christ was born without a sinful nature, His Father being God. I understand He came down from the ivory palaces. I understand He was with the Father from the beginning.
How then can we walk as Jesus did? By doing what He did, which was to pray and find out from the Father what He was do, and then to trust the Father for wisdom and strength to perform His ministry.
We can do this, even though we were born with a sinful nature; even though we did not come down from Heaven; even though we were not with the Father from the beginning.
We can, and must, pray and find out from Christ what we are to do. Then we are to trust Christ at every moment for wisdom and strength to serve in the manner He desires.
Can we do this? Of course we can. It is just as easy to pray and find out what we are to do, and to trust Christ at every moment for wisdom and strength to serve in the manner He desires, as it is to make up our own mind what we are to do and to trust in our own wisdom, talents, and experience to accomplish what we want during the day.
It is just as easy to look to Christ for everything as it is to live according to our own wisdom and desires. We have to choose one way or the other. They do not mix readily.
So if we claim to be living in Christ, abiding in Him, then we must choose to look to Christ at all times rather than to our own resources. It is as simple and straightforward as this.
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 you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. (I John 2:7,8)
I believe John is saying the same thing that the Apostle Peter said, concerning the Morning Star.
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (I Peter 2:19)
We must keep in mind that John and Peter had strong Jewish backgrounds. They both were writing to Christians, no doubt both Jewish and Gentile by race.
Since the New Testament had not been formulated by this time, I expect by "this old command" John was referring to the Old Testament, just as Peter mentioned "the word of the prophets."
Paul admonished Timothy to take heed to the Jewish Scriptures.
And how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:15-17)
By "all Scripture" Paul meant the Old Testament.
Here is one of the destructive effects of the teaching of Dispensationalism. We are not directed toward the Old Testament as a source of guidance and strength. In any case, the Old Testament is minimized.
The truth is, however, except for the specific statutes of the Law of Moses, the Old Testament is food for us. Its exhortations for us to turn away from sin and embrace righteousness are as valid today as when they were written. But Dispensationalism would tell us such exhortations are meaningless to us today because we are "saved by grace." You can see what a horrendous error this is, what loss we have suffered by cutting us off in this manner from the Word of God found in the Old Testament.
So the Apostle John, by "old command" probably meant the Old Testament. That is the message of God they had heard.
Now, however, we have the Words of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. And as we pay attention to the Old Testament, as Peter exhorted us, and also to the New Testament which we now have, the Morning Star, Jesus Christ, rises in our heart.
Both the Old and New Testaments are as "a light shining in a dark place" until the eternal Word is written in our mind and heart; until Christ, the living Word, is formed in us.
Sometimes we get ahead of the program. We try to grow in Christ without paying enough attention to the Old and New Testaments. We do not meditate in Godís Word day and night. We do not seek to obey what we find therein. As long as this is true, the Bright and Morning Star, Jesus Christ, will never rise in our hearts.
The contemporary teaching of "grace" is a snare and a delusion. It has destroyed the witness of the Christian Church.
At the very moment that I am writing (2003), the Anglican Church, second only to the Roman Catholic Church in members, is divided over the issue of homosexual marriage and ministry. This tells me that a significant number of our Anglican brothers are not meditating in Godís written Word. If they were, they would know homosexual behavior is condemned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Consequently the Morning Star will never rise in their hearts, not by grace, mercy, or any other means. Only a turning to God in sincere, diligent repentance can assure their salvation.
God cannot be mocked!
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. (I John 2:9)
When the Morning Star is arising in our heart, when the Light of Jesus Christ is in us, we have no bitterness, hatred, or unforgiveness in us.
Hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness are widespread in the Christian churches. People have been treated unjustly, in many instances. After they have become a Christian, they find that unforgiveness and bitterness are still present. Also, the believers sometimes are wounded in their churches.
There is much criticizing, gossiping, slandering among the Christian people.
God wants us to be delivered completely from all these forms of murder. We indeed can be delivered by the power and Virtue of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we have to ask for deliverance and really desire to be delivered.
There are wounds that go very deep. Many Christian women, and probably some men, were molested as children. Sometimes by relatives or even ministers of the Gospel, so great is our apostate condition. On other occasions there has been a husband that verbally abused his wife, or a wife that ran off with another man.
All of this hatred must be cleansed from us totally. This would not be possible were it not for the blood of the Lamb of God. There is so much power and so much virtue in the blood of the Lamb of God that it can remove every particle of hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, revenge, and animosity from the human heart.
Ask God to apply the blood to the unforgiveness and bitterness in your heart. Tell the Lord you want to be totally free from it. Or, ask the Lord to make you want to be totally free from it. His blood will prevail against the darkness of Satan in your personality and you will go free.
Try it and see! But know this. If you do not seek deliverance, if you do not seek release from the desire for revenge, if you do not wash your heart in the blood of the Lamb, you will lose part or all of your inheritance in the Lord. Then the person will have hurt you twice!
You do not have to return to the same situation and permit yourself or your children to be injured again. Keep away from the offender as much as you can. God will help you to do this. Do not allow yourself to become masochistic thinking that this will make you a saint. Just get your own heart right, and then ask God to deliver you and your children completely from these abusive circumstances.
Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (I John 2:10,11)
John is saying much about light and darkness, isnít he? When we walk in the light we have fellowship with God. When we permit spiritual darkness to reside in us we do not have fellowship with God and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, does not purify us from all sin.
So much of salvation depends on our being diligent! Remember the parable of the ten virgins and of the talents? In both instances the issue was one of diligence versus carelessness. The consequences of being careless were terrifying. In the case of the foolish, careless virgins, they were shut out of the wedding. In the case of the foolish, careless man who buried his talent, his talent was given to another and he was put out into the darkness.
Actually I think some of this activity may be going on today. People who have not been careful to keep themselves full of the life of God are not entering the wonderful steps forward available today. Others are having their abilities removed from themóand they do not even realize it because they are blind, having been put out into the spiritual darkness.
So if we are yielding to hatred, or bitterness, or unforgiveness, we need to take care of this problem immediately, just as we would a cancer in our body. We are to go to the Lord and ask for His help, and keep on asking until we obtain release from every particle of this darkness. Otherwise we are going to miss the day of our visitation, and we will not realize it until it is too late.
God is not pleased with laziness, carelessness, foolishness, or the neglect of His salvation!
I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. 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. (I John 2:12-14)
I believe we are speaking here of three age groups: children, fathers, and young men. It is interesting that they should be treated differently. But our experience in working with people tells us that such a distinction is realistic and practical.
Young children vary widely in their awareness of the things of God. John says their sins have been forgiven on account of the name of Jesus. Also, that they have known the Father. We know also that Jesus said we must become as children if we are to enter the Kingdom of God.
In our own church I marvel at the spiritual precocity of the children. The things they say make me wonder if the generation coming up is not special in the eyes of the Lord. Maybe because leaders are being born now, Satan is emphasizing homosexuality and abortion. It reminds us of Herod seeking to murder the Baby Jesus.
It would be awful, wouldnít it, to abort a developing child who was destined to be a source of salvation for many people? Yet, people take a chance on doing this when they have an abortion.
In our church we do not "talk down" to children. At the age of six, or younger, we begin to plant the idea of serving the Lord. They are not pushed to spiritual maturity; they have lots of opportunities to have fun and do what children do.
We do not push them to "get saved." I notice that every once in a while a child will ask to be baptized in water. I guess God speaks to them. When they ask to be baptized, we trust the parents to determine if they understand the significance. We do not put a lower age level on water baptism because individual children are so different. It is when they ask, then we try to find out if they understand what water baptism means.
We have had several instances where children have come down to the altar to pray, especially during the Communion. When they do, I ask the parents to come down also so the whole family can take Communion together at the altar.
It is surprising how God deals with children if the pastor provides a suitable environment for them during the service.
John tells us the sins of the children have been forgiven on account of the name of Jesus, and they know the Father. I can believe this. I worked with children for a number of years as a public elementary-school teacher and principal. I have felt the hand of God on the little children, even though I think few of them came from Christian homes.
Sometimes I believe an army of children would be more able to defeat the enemy than would be the case with an army of "mighty men." The Father is with children because they are naive and unsophisticated; although in America the various media may be harming this innocence.
The smaller ones see the face of the Father because there is no lie in them.
Their sins have been forgiven and they have known the Father. How important it is that we who are older do not violate their knowledge of God with our unholy behavior!
John wrote to fathers, older men in the faith, because they have known Jesus.
After I left the Marine Corps I went to a Pentecostal Bible school. I had been a Christian for about three years. I was impressed that the older Christians knew the Lord in a way I did not.
That impression has stayed with me through the years. Sometimes I refer to "old Brother Fullerton," an Assembly of God minister who spoke at the Bible school. He really knew the Lord and was the first person I ever heard speak of the "rest of God."
"Old Brother Fullerton" really made an impression on me. It is difficult for me to realize I now am quite a bit older than he was at the time.
Do I know the Lord now, at the age of 78? Maybe so. Certainly not as much as I would like to. But I think I am getting there.
Sometimes I feel like I am surrounded by several people in the spirit world. I wish I could see them more plainly. I have been asking the Lord to let me know who they are. So far there has been no answer to my prayer. But they are there!
Maybe I am getting ready to go home to be with Jesus. Wouldnít that be wonderful! I know God will take care of my wife Audrey and my sons, so I am at peace about that. Meanwhile I am spending hours each day at the computer so every tiny bit of understanding the Lord has graciously given me may be available to the generation coming up.
To know Him who has been from the beginning. This is the greatest achievement possible while we are struggling to survive spiritually in this sin-cursed world.
As far as the young men are concerned, they are strong; the Word of God abides in them; and they have overcome the evil one.
We have several younger men in our church, ranging from the ages of 16 through 50. I consider them all my sons. I can see that the Word of God is growing in them. They have spiritual strength and are overcoming the accuser of the brothers.
Hopefully they will continue, after I am gone, to grow ever stronger in the Word of God and in victory over Satan. I believe they shall.
I am not certain where we are on the timetable of the Lord. Two thousand years ago the Lord said He was coming quickly. Thinking about what must be fulfilled before the historic return of Jesus Christ, I cannot see how everything will have been completed in forty or fifty years.
Of one thing I am reasonably certain: I believe God is going to sweep away the current traditions and open the Scriptures to His leaders. The Lord promised that the Gospel of the Kingdom would be preached to every nation for a witness, and then the end of the Church Age would be here.
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God has not been preached since the days of the Apostles, as far as I know. What has been preached is the gospel of Heaven. There is not much consciousness today that the Kingdom of God actually will come to the earth; that Godís will actually shall be done in the earth.
Well, God is restoring the Gospel of the Kingdom today, and the accompanying message of personal righteousness of behavior. I noticed, when I was in public-school work, that people change very slowly. Given the enormity of the current error, I cannot see how Godís people will change from the current "Heaven thinking" to "Kingdom thinking" in a short length of time.
No doubt the revival of Kingdom preaching we are hoping for will be enabled through worldwide trouble. Also, there will have to be a mighty anointing on those who preach the Gospel of the Kingdom if people are to turn against hundreds of years of tradition.
But I know the change from Heaven thinking to Kingdom thinking is going to take place. I just am not sure how or how long this will take.
Meanwhile, I believe God will raise up young men who will hold fast to the truth of God and will brave the storm of resistance, just as did the pioneers of the Pentecostal message.
I think the change will move too swiftly for another denomination to be formed. Instead I look for the witnesses of God to go forth two by two, healing the sick, casting out demons, and proclaiming the soon coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
I think my job is to write and teach what I believe God has shown me so those coming after me will be able to reject the current traditions and see what the Bible actually is saying.
The children, the fathers, and the young men all have their place. But it will be the young men and women who will overcome the accuser of the brothers by the blood of the Lamb; by the word of their testimony; and by loving not their lives to the death.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the worldóthe cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and doesócomes not from the Father but from the world. (I John 2:15,16))
There are three great areas of sin. All of the sons of God, beginning with the Lord Jesus, are tempted along the same three lines: the bread issue Ė finding survival and security in the world (the cravings of sinful man); the pleasure issue Ė the lusts of the sinful nature (the lust of the eyes); the achievement issue Ė seeking to make our mark in the world (the boasting of what he has and does).
These three issues motivate us while living in the world. None of them came from the Father but from the world.
That we should heap to ourselves material riches in order to guarantee our survival and security is not of the Father. It is the Fatherís will that we seek first the Kingdom of God. If we do this, our material needs will be satisfied.
That we should long after the pleasures that are found in the palaces of the kings of the world, the lusts of the flesh, is not of the Father. It is the Fatherís will that we should find our pleasure in the Lord Jesus Christ.
That we should seek to accomplish some great work is not of the Father. To obey God perfectly is all the achievement we need. Should God perform some notable accomplishment through us, that is fine. But we need to remember that God is not impressed with how famous we are. God is impressed only with faithfulness to Himself and His will.
The Lord Jesus Christ is not of this world and we are not to be of this world. Believers sometimes warn us against being "so heavenly minded we are no earthly good." Yet the Lord Jesus was totally heavenly minded, and look at the good He did!
In any case, the Apostle Paul urged us to set our minds on things above.
There is a religious "otherworldliness" which is unprofitable. But to be totally occupied with Jesus Christ at all times, faithfully performing our obligations while holding the world very lightly, brings peace and joy that those scrabbling to obtain the worldís riches will never know or understand.
We of the Christian churches need to be aware becoming part of the world system destroys our spiritual strength, just as the cutting of Samsonís hair destroyed his supernatural strength. His long hair signified Samsonís separation unto God. We Christians are not to express arrogance and spiritual superiority when we are with the people of the world. But we always are to remember that we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God in a special way. This should not make us arrogant, but humble of heart and mind and ready to be of service.
The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (I John 2:17)
There is one thing that always is trueóthe world is always passing away along with its desires.
I learned something as a young man. There are times when you desire something fervently, but for one reason or another it is not possible for you to obtain what you want without going against Godís will.
After six months have passed and you think about what you wanted so desperately, you realize you donít really care whether you ever have it or not. In some instances you recognize that you would have brought pain to yourself if you had insisted on doing what you desired.
Things that we desire desperately usually are idols. When God has finished burning the desire out of you, you can take or leave what you desired so passionately. Then you are free and you are not being governed by an idol.
I know this is difficult to accept for a young person who is aflame with one desire or another. He begins to think, "If I never get what I want, what is the use of anything?"
What he doesnít realize is that God is removing bondages.
The Bible promises us the desires of our heart. When we do the will of God we live forever, and we have forever to enjoy the desires of our heart. The difference is that now we are not controlled by our desires, our desires are controlled by us, and Christ controls everything.
The most joyous, peaceful state there is, is that in which Godís will and our will is one will. There is nothing better than this in all of creation.
Everyone who touches Jesus Christ lives forever. Noah is still testifying to us. So is the woman who poured out the perfume on the feet of Jesus. The flesh is a grand show today and perishes tomorrow. But whoever does the will of God is forever alive and testifying of the faithfulness of God.
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. (I John 2:18)
Today we have a manmade doctrine called the "pre-tribulation rapture." The purpose of this invention is to bring the Church to Heaven before the dreadful Antichrist appears, the ruler spoken of in Daniel.
I donít see how we can be brought up to Heaven before the Antichrist appears, when the Apostle John, two thousand years ago, said many antichrists have come. Do you?
I understand "The Antichrist" has not appeared as yet, the man of lawlessness of whom the Apostle Paul spoke in Second Thessalonians. The point is, the Apostle John and those he was addressing remained on the earth in the midst of many antichristsóand so shall we. It is sin we have to fear, not the great tribulation or Antichrist!
And everyone said, "Amen! Brother Thompson."
Notice that the Apostle John refers to his time, 2,000 years ago, as the "last hour." John knew he was in the "last hour" because of all the antichrists who were present. The comment about the "last hour" reminds us of the Lord Jesus saying He was "coming quickly." These kinds of statements leave us with the impression calendar time is not much of an issue in the spirit realm. We need to be cautious when we base our plans on the thought that Jesus may come in a month or two.
If we are to obey the Lord we must keep ourselves instantly ready to give an account to Him, and at the same time realize He may not appear during our lifetime.
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. (I John 2:19)
John is saying the antichrists "went out from us," meaning, I suppose, out from the Christian communities. This is a sobering thought, isnít it, that the Antichrist will emerge from the Christian churches.
Churches will go along for a while, and then a group of people will leave. You probably have had that experience. This creates a social problem as friends declare they cannot agree with our doctrine, or our liturgy, or something else we are doing.
The Apostle Paul tells us not to have fellowship with people who leave our midst; but this often is difficult if not impossible to do. Yet I have not seen good come from continuing to have fellowship with people who have left our midst.
I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. (Romans 16:17)
Evidently church splits were a problem then as they are now.
I would not want to think harshly of or condemn people who have left an assembly. Perhaps the Lord sees that they will prosper spiritually in another setting. But it does not seem to be a good idea to maintain close social contact with someone who has criticized the assembly and persuaded other people to leave.
At the time John was writing the churches met in homes. I am under the impression their social life was more integrated than is true of us in America. So for a person to leave the assembly was a statement against what had once been a close relationship. It probably is best for the members of the assembly to not become involved socially with those who have left.
John says, "If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." I think this is true. When a group of people leave an assembly, it is because they do not belong there. Why, I couldnít tell you. It reminds us of David and Jonathan being separated. Different callings possibly. Different levels of consecration perhaps.
On at least four occasions in the Old Testament it is said concerning someone who died, "He was gathered to his people." Have you thought much about this? It may be true that the relationships we are building now will persevere past the grave. I would not make too much of this, but I believe it is a distinct possibility.
It reminds us of Paul saying to the believers, "You are our glory and joy."
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. (I Thessalonians 2:19,20)
I realize the above passage is not speaking of life after death but of the return of the Lord. Yet I think it is interesting how relationships persevere. Donít you find it so?
There may be significance in whom the Lord permits to worship together during this life; perhaps enduring families are being established. There may be more than ordinary significance, as well, when a group of people are in agreement that they do not belong with a particular assembly of believers.
It is kind of like water seeking its own level, isnít it?
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (I John 2:20)
The only way we can identify the truth of the Scriptures is by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has been charged by the Father to gain a bride for His Son. Consequently the Holy Spirit is supposed to manage all the activities of the Christian churches.
For two thousand years the hand of man has been on the churches. Uzzah has been steadying the Ark. To the present hour, well-intentioned religious leaders are attempting to build the Kingdom of God, not knowing what they are doing.
People interpret the Book of Revelation, drawing timelines and graphs as though the events of the book were arranged chronologically.
The Bible was written by holy men who were moved by the Holy Spirit. Therefore it can be understood only by holy people who are moved by the Holy Spirit. No scholar, no matter how devout, no matter how learned in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, can possibly understand the Bible. The Bible has to be interpreted by the Spirit of God.
In Zechariah we are told that the completing of the eternal Temple of God, the Christian Church, will be accomplished "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord." Yet we blithely ignore this truth as we set about with our programs of salvation and church-building.
I have been a Christian for many years. I have come to the conclusion that the Christian leaders may never turn to Christ and find out what He wants. I hope I am incorrect in this; but it is discouraging to see intelligent people lean on their own understanding rather than on the Spirit of God.
Paulís doctrine of "grace" has been misunderstood, resulting in enormous moral destruction. I donít believe this would have happened if the scholars were relying on the Holy Spirit rather than their own minds.
Only the anointing of the Holy Spirit can lead us into truth. In the case of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, every item was anointed with the holy anointing oil, portraying that nothing is to be done in the church without the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
How do we obtain the anointing? By obeying Jesus Christ. God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him. The will of God ordinarily is not made known to us through study but only as we present our body a living sacrifice, taking up our personal cross, our personal prison, and following the Lord Jesus patiently and faithfully each day of our life.
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. (I John 2:21)
The principal issue of life in the world is that of finding out truth. The United States of America places a premium on education. Today children in kindergarten are being taught to read. Education usually enables us to make more money, and money is the great American idol.
However, education does not always lead to truth. Truth is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him is Life, and that Life is Light. Light is that which gives us knowledge and understanding.
Science provides data, such as where a thing is; how much it weighs; its chemical composition; its color; its temperature, and so forth. Data is not truth. Truth answers the basic questions of philosophy, such as, what is the meaning of something? What is man that You are mindful of him?"óthis sort of thing.
To have Christ dwelling in us is to have Truth dwelling in us. Truth is not found anywhere other than in Christ.
The believers whom the Apostle John was writing to knew the truth because Christ was dwelling in them. Those who did not have the truth in them had already left the assembly. They had believed a lie.
Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichristóhe denies the Father and the Son. (I John 2:22)
I donít know what was going on at the time of the Apostle John, that he would write such a thing. Apparently there were teachers who were claiming that Jesus is not the Christ, the Christ who is to come.
The Antichrist is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Christ. Does this strike you as strange? It does me. I donít know what to think about the Antichristóprobably that he is some kind of sinful monster, something like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalinóor even Saddam Hussein. Instead he may be someone who is interested in theology.
How would Antichrist profit by maintaining that Jesus of Nazareth is not the promised Christ? The Jews insist that Jesus was not the promised Christ because otherwise they might feel guilty of crucifying Him.
To tell you the truth, I cannot understand the fierce anger of the Jews, as portrayed in the Book of Acts, concerning the claims of Jesus Christ; or their wrath when Paul said the Lord had sent him to the Gentiles. It is true that religions fight other religions with an uncompromising hatred. The power behind this hatred and bitterness must be Satan. Why else would one human being attack another because of what that individual believes to be true concerning God?
I seriously doubt that Antichrist is motivated by what he perceives as theological error. The only motive I could think of that sounds reasonable to me is that heóAntichrist himselfówants to be regarded as Christ; he wants to be worshiped.
So what we have to watch out for is not another Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin but someone with a religious orientation who wants to be regarded as God.
Over the last several hundred years we have been taught that the rights of man should be our supreme concern; that the only god there is, is the god in each person. This is my understanding of the antichrist spiritóthat man is his own god.
Ultimately, I believe, the current emphasis on man being his own god will be brought to fullness in an individual who will sit in the Holy of Holies of a restored Jewish Temple. He also will place a statue of himself on the very place on the roof of the Temple where Satan brought Christ to be tempted in the area of presumption.
Maybe we are looking in the wrong direction for Antichrist.
No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (I John 2:23)
The Lord Jesus Christ lives in God and God in Him. It is impossible to have the Son without having the Father. It is impossible to have the Father without having the Son.
We actually are being invited into this Oneness. If we are willing to submit to the change that the Holy Spirit wants to work in us, the time will come when it will be impossible to have us without having the Son; and it will be impossible to have the Son without having us.
Yes, it is true. We are being brought into the enlargement of the Father that He so desires. This is the meaning of, "In my Fatherís house are many dwelling places." You and I, if we will submit to becoming new creations, will finally become a room in the great dwelling place of God. Think of that!
There are not many roads that lead to God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only road that leads to God. There are many worthy people who are true to the god they serve. But no matter how worthy they are, they cannot approach the one true God except through the Lord Jesus Christ.
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 usóeven eternal life. (I John 2:24,25)
The true Gospel of the Kingdom had been preached to those to whom the Apostle John was writing. Immediately, however, teachers of religion came and disputed with the believers, seeking to gain proselytes to their own line of thinking.
The Apostle Paul spoke of those who by smooth talk and flattery deceive the minds of naive people.
We see this very thing taking place today, and I cannot fathom the motives of those who obviously are not hearing from the Lord and yet come and argue about "grace" and "eternal security." What is there about religion that it draws people to whom the Lord has not spoken?
I have noticed, and you probably have too, that when someone turns to the Lord, almost immediately a proponent of some incorrect doctrine will appear and seek to turn the convert away from the truth. This is so disappointing!
I have asked the Lord why He permits this to happen, when the new believer is so vulnerable. I still do not understand, unless God wants to determine if the new believer is really one of His elect. It is evident that God could prevent the new believer from being approached by a false teacher, just as He could have prevented Satan from tempting Eve. God has His own ways, doesnít He.
Notice that the promise is "eternal life." You will not find an emphasis on going to Heaven in any book of the New Testament. The emphasis is on eternal life, the Life that the Lord Jesus is. We are to be made part of that Life, and will be in the Presence of God in that Life whether we are in Heaven, on the earth, or anywhere else. Heaven is a place. Eternal life is a state of being.
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. (I John 2:26)
I know Satan works night and day to confuse the doctrine presented in the New Testament. This effort to distort the truth of the Scriptures continues to the present day.
How, then, does one find the truth of the Scriptures? Only by taking up his cross and following Jesus every day. Only by presenting his body a living sacrifice to God.
The reason, as I see it, why people misunderstand the New Testament is that they are moved by their own self-seeking and self-centeredness. They mean well and may be devout. But the New Testament cannot be understood until the reader has been through the fire and is hearing from God.
Superior intelligence is not the answer. Only the Holy Spirit can give the correct interpretation of the New Testament. As long as we are living the adamic life we cannot understand the New Testament, because it was written by people who were filled with the Presence of Jesus Christ.
I am amazed at the tremendous amount of exegetical materials available today, including the original languages. The number of commentaries and the thorough manner in which they have been constructed leaves one amazed at the diligence and dedication that have produced these scholarly works.
It reminds me of Beethoven. One could exhume the corpse of Beethoven and meticulously dissect every smallest part of his anatomy. Yet the ninth symphony could not be discovered. Somehow the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Bible study always is valuable. But the correct understanding comes only as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation rests on us. Unlike the case with deceased authors, we can go to the One who wrote the Bible and talk to Him. We can find out from Him what a passage means, and He will lead us to the correct interpretation.
It is well that we all keep an open mind, and not descend into the bitter wrangling that too often characterizes religious teachers. Jesus Himself is Truth, and the more we have of Him the more truth we have. Isnít that so?
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeitójust as it has taught you, remain in him. (I John 2:27)
There is no question but that the Bible was written supernaturally and can only be understood supernaturally.
The Jews are intelligent people. Some of their best minds, their scholars, spent thousands of hours writing the Talmud. Every verse of the Old Testament was pored over, analyzed, and discussed
Yet, there is the fifty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah. This chapter is a graphic destruction of the atonement made by the Lord Jesus.
The Jewish scholars may say that the suffering Servant is Moses, or Israel. But it is such a clear description of the Lord Jesus being led as a lamb to the slaughter that one must admit there is some kind of spiritual seal on the fifty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah. Or else the Jews are afraid if they admit Jesus is Christ they will be held accountable for the way they treated Him.
So it is in the case of the New Testament. There are whole books of the New Testament that warn us of the danger of continuing to obey our sinful nature. Yet intelligent, devout scholars will keep repeating that we are saved by a sovereign decision regardless of how we behave.
There have been instances where some who work in jails have brought in my materials and taught them to the inmates. These materials teach righteousness of behavior. The prisoners are in jail because they did not behave righteously. So some of the prisoners see the value of such teaching and then embrace it.
Other workers enter the jails and prisons and bring with them material that emphasizes we are not to do anything but believe. We are saved by grace, so our works of righteousness mean nothingóthey are legalism. The prisoners obviously will not learn to behave righteously, from what they are being taught.
Both of these messages cannot be correct. Our behavior either is a significant aspect of our salvation or it is not. How can two intelligent, devout people read the same New Testament and come to understandings that are not only different but opposed? One or the other is not of God!
How can this be? I do not know. But I do know from Matthew through Revelation, the New Testament continues with the Old Testament doctrines of righteous behavior, holiness of personality, and absolute obedience to God. Why other people cannot see this is beyond me.
Take yourself, for example. If you are to bet your eternal welfare on one or the other of these two irreconcilable doctrines, would you stake your welfare on the doctrine that our behavior is an integral aspect of salvation, or our behavior has nothing to do with our salvation?
I donít know about you, but since we will spend a very long time in the next worldómuch longer than in the present worldóI am staking my welfare on the doctrine that my behavior is an integral aspect of my salvation. If I am incorrect, at least I have avoided disease and remorse by obeying the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.
But if an individual stakes his eternal welfare on the doctrine that his behavior has nothing to do with his salvation, and he has not lived as a disciple, then according to the Apostle Paul he will reap destruction.
So which is the wise choice, do you think?
And now, dear children, continue in him, so when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. (I John 2:28)
What does it mean to continue in Christ, according to what we have read thus far? Does it mean to believe in the theological facts about Christ and maintain that mental position? Or do you think it means to keep the commandments found in the New Testament? Are we or are we not to walk in the Light of Godís Presence and will, confessing and turning away from our sins? Which of these two approaches, a steadfast mental position or keeping the commandments of the New Testament, is meant by continuing in Him?
And what if we donít "continue in Him," what is the penalty? Does it mean we will be fearful and ashamed before Him at His coming?
Notice that it does not say we will be cast into Hell. It think it is important for us to realize there are other penalties for not serving Christ beside being cast into Hell or the Lake of Fire. One of them is being fearful and ashamed before Him at His coming, rather than rejoicing as we hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Daniel speaks of being resurrected to face shame and everlasting contempt.
There is a Heaven and there is a Hell. How would you like to be spared Hell but still be fearful and ashamed before the Presence of your Lord? How would you like to suffer a significant loss of inheritance because you have not been diligent in serving the Lord?
One might say, "I donít care just as long as I am saved."
My rejoinder to this is, you do not know what you are saying. When you see the glorious robes of light placed on the victorious saints, and you yourself being scorned because you were not careful to serve Jesus, are you going to say then that you donít care just as long as you are saved?
We may think being saved means we will live forever in the spirit Paradise in a splendid mansion. This is not scriptural. The emphasis of the New Testament is on the Kingdom of God, not on splendid mansions in the spirit Paradise.
Our future life, except for a brief period before the return of Christ, will be spent on the earth. There are greatest and least in the Kingdom, the Lord told us. How would you like to be least in the Kingdom? Would you care that others had access to the Lord and had been blessed with a marvelous inheritance of people to love and guide, while you yourself were frowned on by the angels?
What if you had to endure ages of painful correction before you were allowed into the Presence of God? Are you sure that this is what you desire?
What if everything you had gained in life were removed from you and you had to start again as a small child, having to be taught by more faithful servants of the Lord? What if some of the saints were as great lights in the heavens, while you yourself were spiritually naked? Are you sure you would be happy with this destiny?
But arenít we saved by grace, and wonít we all have the same reward?
When Paul speaks of being saved by grace he means instead of by obeying the commandments found in the Law of Moses. Paul always wrote in terms of his extensive training as a Pharisee.
Paul did not mean we can live a careless Christian life and then reap glorious rewards by grace. This is ridiculous.
As far as all having the same rewardóthe Lord told us when He returned he would recompense each one of us according to what we have done. I donít know about you, but that does not sound to me like the Apostle Paul is going to receive the same reward as a believer who continually had to be yanked from the burning so his spirit would be saved in the Day of Christ.
I do not know what the future holds, except for one thing. I know one day I will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ. I intend to live, by Godís grace, in such a manner that I will not be fearful and ashamed when I stand there.
It is kind of like taking out insurance, isnít it? We spend money on premiums when we well could have spent that same money on something we needed. But we are thinking ahead to the day when an accident happens. If an accident does happen and we have not taken out insurance, we are going to wish we had set aside the money to pay the insurance premiums.
We might wish to live our life any way we feel like. But if we are wise we will consider that some day we will be standing before Christ. We want that to be the most wonderful day of our existence, not a terrifying experience of being held in the hand of God, realizing we have failed miserably to do what He commanded.
I donít know about you, but this makes sense to me!
If you know he is righteous, you know everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (I John 2:29)
Now we begin a set of verses that demolish completely the current teaching that we are saved by faith alone, and that the primary righteousness of the new covenant is that which is imputed to us through belief in Christ.
If there were no other emphases in the New Testament on the necessity for righteous behavior, First John 2:29 through 3:10 would forever put an end to the current doctrine that our behavior is not an integral aspect of our salvation.
All of us know Jesus Christ is righteous.
Do we all understand everyone who does what is right has been born of Him? Do we associate the righteous behavior of the Lord Jesus with the conduct of those who profess to believe in Him, realizing that we cannot say we have been born of Jesus Christ and behave in a manner unlike the behavior of the righteous Jesus?
Today we are using the term "born again" incorrectly. Study the Book of Acts and you will see that the Apostles, when preaching salvation, did not speak of being born again.
By being "born again," we of today mean someone has professed faith in Jesus Christ. This is not what it means to be "born again." There are politicians in our government who claim to be born again, but their conduct does not bear this out in every instance.
Being born again means the Substance and Life of Jesus Christ have been conceived in us. We have the supernatural Life of God in us. Obviously this new life must be nurtured if it is to bring forth lasting fruit.
When we mention being born again we are not speaking of repentance, or water baptism, or placing our faith in the blood atonement. We are not referring to a change in our belief system or even in works we do that are proof of our repentance. Being born again means being born of God.
Now if God has been conceived in us, will this change our behavior? How could we have Christ born in us, and then formed in us as we continue to feed on His flesh and blood, and our behavior not change? Any person of sound mind can see readily that if Christ has been conceived in us and is being formed in us, we are going to begin to act like Christ.
The Apostle Paul, speaking of His mature experience, claimed that he was crucified with Christ. He was living no longer. Christ was living in him.
Now, suppose Paul was an adulterer, a thief, and a murderer. What would people think when he said Christ was living in him?
"But," someone will protest, "it is obvious what you are saying is true. The fruit of Christ living in a person must of necessity change that personís behavior for the better. But if the individualís behavior is not changed for the better, isnít he or she still saved by grace?"
The Lord said, if we do not bear the fruit of His moral likeness, we shall be cut out of the Vine, out of Himself.
Now I ask you, if someone is cut out of Christ, no longer living by the Life flowing through the Vine, what would salvation mean in this case? Would it mean he escaped Hell and went to Heaven, but was not joined to Christ? Is this what it would mean?
Imagine being in the presence of the Father, Christ, and the saints, and not being a part of Christ. You certainly could not be in the Kingdom of God, because being in the Kingdom of God means you have Christ in you. This is why the Lord told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to see and enter the Kingdom.
Can you see how totally perverse the current teaching is? The fruit we are to bear is the moral image of Christ in ourselves and then in those whom we influence. If we do not bear the moral image of Christ, and instead bear thorns and briers, as the writer of the Book of Hebrews expresses it, we are in clear danger of the fires of Divine judgment. This is stated both in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John and also in the sixth chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
Some of the Christian teachers of today (and their followers) will go to any lengthówresting the Scriptures disgracefullyóto prove we can continue in sin and still be "saved." They are false prophets, leading themselves and others to certain destruction. Their god is their belly, and this is what they worship. What else can we conclude? They are apostles of darkness.
But they have sat at Jesusí feet. So did Judas. But they spend all their time studying and teaching the Scriptures. So did the Pharisees.
"If you know he is righteous, you know everyone who does what is right has been born of him."
How great is the 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. (I John 3:1)
You know, the Lord Jesus came to bring us to the Father. He is the Way, and the only way, to the Father. He alone knows the Father, and He reveals the Father to whomever He will.
Little children have known the Father. When we grow older we become deceitful and there is a lie in us. But as we press on in the Lord, the Father once again becomes known to us.
When we first are saved the Lord Jesus Christ becomes known to us. As we press forward we become more acquainted with the Holy Spirit. Still further on we encounter the Father in a more pronounced way.
There is no greater yearning in the human soul than to know God and be pleasing to God. Life is full of toys that we play with. Sometimes we become obsessed with this relationship or that thing or circumstance. But when our little game has been played and we face the reality of physical death, we then will realize it is only God that matters and how we treated those whom God entrusted to us.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2)
"What we will be has not yet been made known." I think God wisely prevents us from seeing what we will be. We have been made lower than the angels for a season. But we are sons of God because we have been born of God. No angel is a son of God in this sense.
The Lord Jesus is the Firstborn from the dead, the Firstborn of the new creation. As such He is the elder brother. But we are real sons, make no mistake. We are real brothers of Christ, having the same Father.
Our sonship is not a thing to be grasped. God brought Christ very low, and He will bring us very low so we will have a heart like God and not be arrogant.
"When He appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is." I would imagine that most Christian people have read this statement and believe it.
But think what it is saying! We shall be able to see Christ as He is because we will be like Him.
Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:21)
As I think about our condition as church people, and speculate about our having a body like that of the Lord Jesus Christ, I think one of three things must be true:
We are a lot farther along spiritually than it appears at the present time.
God is going to do a powerful, unprecedented work among us before the Lord returns.
Only a handful of Christians, the victorious saints, will experience the fulfillment of this promise.
It appears to me it is folly and madness to assume God is going to take the present Christian church members, in their bitterness, gossip, unbelief, worldliness, lusts, unforgiveness, unbelief, spiritual laziness, and neglect of their salvation, and then suddenly clothe them with an all-powerful body.
Actually, the present unscriptural doctrine of the "pre-tribulation rapture" is far better suited to todayís American believers; for this doctrine takes us in our present state and lifts us into Paradise so we wonít be harmed by the Antichrist or the Great Tribulation.
But to receive a body like that of Christ while our inward nature is still infantile appears to me to be folly. It has not been my experience that God approves of folly.
"We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." We cannot see Him as He is until we are like Him. It is my understanding that we shall have to be like Him inwardly before we made like Him outwardly. What are your thoughts on that?
If we were made like Him outwardly, entrusted with a supremely powerful body like His, and still had a disobedient, self-seeking inward nature, would we be able to see Him as He is? Would we not be a danger in the universe? It seems to me we would be a danger in the universe, and by no means would we be able to see God and Christ as They are.
So it appears something is going to have to occur between then and now, or only the victorious saints, a small fraction of the present churches in America, are going to experience the joy of being made like Christ and beholding God as He is.
Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (I John 3:3)
The above is a verse that absolutely flies in the face of what is being taught today.
Every believer who hopes to be like Christ and see God as He is purifies himself, just as the Lord is pure.
The Apostle Paul instructed us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.
Purifies himself. Cleanse ourselves.
How do we do this? By believing we are clean? Hardly. We purify ourselves, as John told us previously, by confessing and turning away from our sins. By confessing our sins John does not mean merely listing them, but confessing them as behaviors that we have decided to forsake with all diligence. This is how we wash our robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.
The Holy Spirit today is emphasizing the act of confessing and forsaking our sins. This act is the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of the Day of Atonement, that comes after the Jewish feast of Pentecost.
It is time for the Bride to make herself ready. Every member of the Christian Church is required to work with the Holy Spirit in the act of putting to death the sinful actions of his or her sinful nature.
If we have the hope of being like Christ when He appears, of seeing Him as He is, then we absolutely must purify ourselves. The fact that the Scripture uses the expression "purifies himself" is absolute proof we are not automatically purified by making a profession of faith in Christ. If we were adequately prepared to meet Christ at His appearance by merely professing belief in Him, than John would have wrote something like:
"Every person who believes that Jesus is the Christ and accepts that God has made Him Lord of all has this hope of being like Christ when He appears, and of seeing Him as He is." John would not have directed us to take a further step of purifying ourselves. The Apostle Paul would not have told the Corinthian believers to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit if belief in Christ were the only step of redemption we are to take.
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. (I John 3:4)
John undoubtedly is referring to the Ten Commandments of the Law of Moses.
The Ten Commandments are an abridged version of the eternal moral law of God. They tell us what sin is. The Holy Spirit interprets and expands the Ten Commandments, and guides and empowers us so we can be delivered from sin. The blood of the cross provides the authority for this deliverance.
It really is difficult for a Gentile to grasp the background against which the Apostles preached and wrote. The Law of Moses was instilled in the fiber of their character.
It is a fact that we have counted ourselves as crucified with Christ, and therefore free from the commandments of the Law. But if we keep on sinning we reveal that we have not really counted ourselves dead to sin. In this case we remain alive in the natural man and the Law condemns us.
While we are walking in the Spirit of God, following the Lord closely, the Law has no authority over us. But if we are not walking in the Spirit of God, are not following the Lord closely, are not putting our sins to death through the Spirit of God, thenóeven though we profess faith in Jesus Christóthe Law possess the authority to condemn us.
The Law is as a Roman slave who brings us to the school of Christ. But if we do not go to the school of Christ, preferring to walk in our old ways, then the Law judges us guilty of sin.
What else can we derive from First John 3:4?
But you know he appeared so he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (I John 3:5)
We could view the verse above as meaning that Christ takes away the guilt of our sins, or that He takes away the sinful compulsions of our inward nature. This is an extremely important decision, because it affects how we view the Christian salvation.
Is the Christian salvation primarily the forgiveness of our sins, or is it primarily the removal of our sinful nature? Is the difference between the two covenants that the old covenant kind of forgives sin but the new covenant truly forgives our sins, past, present, and future? If I am not mistaken I believe the most prevalent teaching in our day is that the new covenant is a better covenant because it does a more thorough job of forgiving us.
How can we decide what "take away our sins" means? Probably by thinking about the tenor of the epistle. Is it an exhortation to keep on believing Christ has forgiven our sins, or is it an exhortation to stop sinning?
Notice the statement, "in Him is no sin." "He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin." The expression "in Him is no sin" does not mean He is not guilty of sin, it means Christ doesnít sin. So we might infer that "He might take away our sins and In Him is no sin" means just as He does not sin, He appeared that He might take away our practice of sinning. This makes sense to me. If we are to be like Him and see Him as He is, then it stands to reason we are not sinning any longer.
Letís look at the next verse to see if it will help us decide this very important question.
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (I John 3:6)
It seems to me that this verse suggests "take away our sins" is speaking of destroying the power sin has over us, rather than referring to taking away the guilt of our sins. Obviously there is a significant difference between forgiving our sins and destroying the sinful nature from our personality. Would you agree to that?
What can we say about multitudes of American Christians? They are not living in Him. They have not seen Him. They have not known Him.
Why can we say that? Because they keep on sinning. Why do they keep on sinning? Because they have been taught it does not matter because they have been saved by grace.
We have a real conflict between what is taught today and what the Apostle John has written, donít we?
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. (I John 3:7)
The above verse finishes the argument, doesnít it? Who is righteous? He who does what is right. How is Christ righteous? Christ is righteous because He does what is right.
Modern advertisers know the power of image. For example, they will advertise by saying a truck is like a rock, or ram tough. Cigarette advertisers picture a cowboy smoking a cigarette. The idea is if you smoke that brand of cigarette you are manly, like the cowboy. The architecture of banks projects an image of solidity, while the bank itself may be close to failing.
It is the image that is important. It does not show the truck breaking down or the cowboy gasping for breath and dying of lung cancer. It is the image that becomes the reality, and the advertisers know this.
This is what is true of the doctrine of sovereign grace. The proponents of grace present an image of a glowing sin-free person who has been made so by grace. For eternity the individual will shine in Heaven, totally free from sin. The believer is rejoicing at the thought of suddenly becoming one of Godís stars.
But if we will look carefully at the behavior of the individual, and then read the New Testament, we see that the preaching of grace projects an image that is as illusory as the truck being like a rock, cigarette smoking making us manly, or the drinking of alcohol transporting us to a beach in Hawaii.
He who does what is right is righteous just as Christ is righteous. Not he who believes in Christ is righteous but he who does what is right.
When we come to Christ we do not trust in our own righteousness. By faith we receive His righteousness. Then we have a life to live. If we walk in the Spirit of God we will begin to do what is right. If we do not walk in the Spirit of God our behavior will remain unchanged.
Modern teaching says we are saved and will be accounted as righteous even though our behavior does not change, because we are saved by a sovereign grace that is unaffected by our behavior. This is an image, an illusion. The New Testament does not support this. The Kingdom of God does not accept this, because the Kingdom of God is the doing of Godís will in the earth. The people of the world do not glorify God, because the light of righteous works is not shining in us.
How long will it be before Godís devout ministers and teachers discard this unscriptural image and begin to expound on the Scripturesónot on the traditional topics but on the Scriptures themselves, particularly the passages of the New Testament.
Until they do, it is useless for God to pour out His Spirit. After the excitement is over, the teaching of "faith alone" will cause the believers to return to their sinful ways. The demonic pressures are so strong that the believers are not going to be able to resist the temptation to sin unless they are taught that for a Christian to keep on sinning is to destroy his resurrection unto eternal life.
He 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 devilís work. (I John 3:8)
Again we are faced with the main question: does "destroy the devilís work" mean to forgive people, or does it mean to destroy the sinful nature from them? What is your answer to this question? My answer is, "destroy the devilís work" means to destroy the sinful nature that we were born with. Forgive means forgive. Destroy means destroy. To forgive something is not to destroy it.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not come down to the world to forgive the works of the devil but to destroy the works of the devil. Is it any wonder Satan would prefer that we stress forgiveness rather than destruction?
"He who does what is sinful is of the devil." This is quite a statement, isnít itóespecially when applied to Christian people.
When a Christian does what is sinful, is that of the devil? I guess it must be, because the Apostle John assuredly is writing to Christian people.
"The devil has been sinning from the beginning." That inward compulsion we have to sin, is that really coming from the devil? I think so.
When we confess our sins, denouncing them as evil, we really are bringing judgment against the devil. We are taking Godís side against Satan. Then God forgives and purifies us. God wants us to be free from all that is of Satan. Such deliverance is what salvation is.
One of our major problems when it comes to moral deliverance is the common teaching that as long as we are in the world we are obliged to sin. However, the Apostle Paul told us we do not owe our flesh anything that we should fulfill its lusts.
I think the common teaching that we are obligated to sin, which is against the Scripture, has left us with the impression each human being carries within himself a huge, inexhaustible cavern of sin that can never be cleansed. So we resign ourselves to the fact that we always are going to sin, until we die and go to Heaven.
This is fallacious on two counts. First, we are not a huge, inexhaustible cavern of sin. Second, there is no scriptural basis for the belief that physical death sets us free from our sinful nature. Sin is spiritual in nature and thrives in the spirit realm.
We simply are not an inexhaustible cavern of sin. Each one of us has a different set of bondages. They can be attacked one at a time until they are gone. All through our life on earth we come across impulses in our personality that do not line up with the New Testament. We are to confess and turn away from them. It is just as simple and straightforward as that.
Because Christians have been told that it doesnít matter if they sin, and because they have been told it is impossible to gain victory over sin, they do not confess and forsake the sins they know about. They are waiting for Jesus to come and remove their sinful nature.
Well, Jesus is here today to remove our sinful nature. However, He is not doing it all at once, but a little bit at a time.
I will tell you the truth. Half or more of the sins we commit we can stop doing. We can just stop doing them! Try it and see if I am correct.
As for the remainder, the Holy Spirit guides us each step of the way, giving us wisdom and providing the strength to reject the evil and embrace the good. "Walk in the Spirit," Paul says, "and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh."
Maybe it was not Godís will in past time to deal with the sins of His people. I do not know about that. But I do know God wants His people today to get busy gaining the victory over the sin in their life.
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because Godís seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. (I John 3:9)
The above is a pretty powerful statement, isnít it?
John is not saying the moment we are born of God we will never sin. The idea is he will not "continue to sin." He "cannot go on sinning." The reason is, that which is born in us is of the Divine Nature. The Divine Nature does not sin!
John is telling us to stop sinning and to pay attention to the growth of Christ in us. If we sin we are to confess our sin, turn away from it, receive our forgiveness, and proceed forward as a wiser person. Meanwhile God nourishes us with the flesh and blood of Christ and we become better able to resist sin.
We are not talking about the guilt of sin, are we? We are dealing with the sinful nature itself. As we press forward in Christ, His Nature replaces our sinful nature. This is what it means to be saved.
Currently we define "saved" as meaning we go to Heaven when we die. This is not what "saved" means. To be "saved" is to have our sinful nature replaced with the Nature of Jesus Christ.
But will we go to Heaven? Probably so, when we die. But the purpose of being saved is not so we will go to Heaven but so we will have fellowship with the Father and the Son. John wrote to us so we would have fellowship with the Father and the Son. Do you remember that from the beginning of our study?
We cannot have fellowship with the Father and the Son when we are continuing in sin. They receive us when we first are saved so we can start on the rugged way that leads to eternal life in Their Presence. But if our behavior does not begin to change, if we are not in the process of becoming a new creation of righteous behavior, then we lose our fellowship with the Father and the Son. They do not have fellowship with darkness!
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 a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (I John 3:10)
I wish Christian people would read their Bible, donít you? Here the Apostle John puts an absolute end to current teaching. How do we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are? Not by their profession of faith but by their behavior. Whoever does not do what is right is not a child of God. Multitudes of American believers do not do what is right. What can we say about them? They are not children of God.
"But they confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead."
They are not children of God.
"But what about mercy, grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love?"
They are not children of God.
"But everyone says we are saved by grace and not by works of righteousness we have done."
They are not children of God if they do not do what is right.
Notice the last part of the above verse: "nor is anyone who does not love his brother."
What is true of anyone who does not love his brother? He is not a child of God.
How about the millions of American Christians who have bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness, spite, jealousy, and envy in them? They are not children of God.
What must they do if they are to be children of God? They must ask God to forgive them and remove the bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness, spite, jealousy, and envy from them.
But what if they are unable to surrender these areas of darkness, preferring to hold on to them?
In this case they are to resign themselves to face anguish in the Day of Resurrection.
Or they can pray for the desire to be rid of them, and then follow the Lordís leading as He brings them to the place of deliverance.
We absolutely mustóabsolutely must! press through all this garbage until we are standing on Heavenís tableland, above the moral filth of bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness, spite, jealousy, and envy. We can gain the high ground, you know, if this is what we really want. And if we donít really want to be delivered, we can pray for the desire to be delivered.
One thing is absolutely certain: anyone who does not love his brother is not a child of God! The Scripture cannot be broken!
This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (I John 3:11)
The Lord Jesus commanded us to love one another. What is love? Love is not primarily an emotion, it is being kind, generous, and forgiving toward others. Love is in what we do, not in what we feel.
The adamic nature tends to love some people and reject others. We have natural affinities and antipathies. We need to ask the Lord to help us grow past our likes and dislikes of people, and not gush over some and reject others. We need to treat all people with kindness and gentleness. This is the image of Christ and accepted by the Father. God certainly will assist us in this if we ask Him to.
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 brotherís were righteous. (I John 3:12)
Some have speculated that God did not accept Cain because Cain did not offer a blood sacrifice. I am not certain this is a fact. Cain was a farmer and brought to the Lord the fruit of the field. Why wouldnít God accept that? I personally believe he would. These were not sin offerings, requiring blood. They merely were thank or peace offerings, as far as I can tell.
John said Cain murdered his brother, Abel, because Cainís actions were evil and his brotherís were righteous.
Bringing the firstfruits of his crops was not an evil work. But for some reason God did not regard Cainís offering. So Cain in a jealous rage murdered his brother.
John said Cain belonged to the evil one. This was evident in that his actions were evil. How John knew I do not know. But God evidently saw that Cainís heart was not right, and it was for this reason God did not regard his offering.
Notice that Cain did not repent and turn to the Lord. He blamed his brother, proving that he had an evil heart.
I think this is true of the churches of our day. We are growing in the fervency of our worship, I believe. But we must understand if our heart is not right, particularly if we are holding a grudge against someone, God does not regard our offering.
Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. (I John 3:13)
I think we are in a peculiar situation right now in America. Because of the manner in which our country was founded, there remains a lingering impression that America is a Christian nation.
But this may no longer be true, for two reasons. Many people have immigrated to America who are not of the Christian religion. Secondly, the moral atmosphere is rapidly degenerating. What is acceptable todayóeven protected by lawówould not have been tolerated a hundred years ago. The decline is so slow we do not notice it. But it is happening and it is horrendousófar, far worse than we realize, for we do not know what takes place behind closed doors.
Sooner or later, perhaps because of our support of the nation of Israel, there may arise strong feelings against the Christian religion. It is difficult to visualize today, but there are signs that persecution may be on the horizon.
Christian morality is considered antiquated and destructive, in some places. Also, people may perceive if we did not support Israel the chance of our suffering from terrorist attacks might decrease significantly.
If there are major terrorist attacks, added to economic collapse and any form of natural calamity that causes shortages on the supermarket shelves, the America people are going to start looking for someone to blame. If the American people are deprived of any right or any comfort, and they perceive the churches somehow have a hand in it, then there will be persecution.
There are numerous professing Christians in America, and some genuine disciples. But America no longer is a Christian nation. Our testimony to the world is that of material wealth, military power, and moral depravity. Can anything stop this trend? Only the Christian people can, through prayer. But this would involve turning from our wicked ways. Are we willing to do this?
We know we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (I John 3:14)
Notice that John says our assurance that we have passed from death to life (which is the definition of "salvation") is based on our behavior, not on our doctrine. I believe this is important.
The root of all or most sins is in the area of relationships. The Ten Commandments have to do with relationships. The reason the world is in so much turmoil has to do with faulty relationships.
The most powerful and constructive of all relationships is love. We have to gain victory over our love of the world, the lusts of our flesh and soul, and our self-seeking before we can love our brother. Remember, we are not speaking of an emotion but of our willingness to be kind and generous with someone whether or not we like him or her. Real love is demonstrated by actions, not emotions.
Love and romance are a main topic of interest in America. But the love and romance of which we speak is not love at all. It is a self-gratifying appetite of our glands. Nothing more profound than this. What we call love has to do with how people make us feel, or how we want them to feel toward us. It is quite different from Divine love.
The love that God gives us for people is not based on our glands, or how people make us feel, or how we want them to feel toward us. It is a strong, wise ability to seek the other personís welfare, not being moved by his readiness to do harm to us.
Divine love is the most powerful force of all. Our human love leads us into sin as often as not. It is weak and easily offended. But Godís love is a great power, a mighty force of Godís Personality that affects all God is and does.
We are living in spiritual death when we have hatred and bitterness in our heart, no matter how fervently we profess Christ or how active we are in church. If we will ask the Lord, He will give us His love for people. This is eternal life.
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know no murderer has eternal life in him. (I John 3:15)
Again we see that the evidence of eternal life is not our profession of belief, it is the condition of our heart.
Sometimes we are in a situation where there is a good deal of strife and anger. This affects us, of course. It is difficultóalmost impossibleó to rise above the slander, the accusations, and the lies.
But we just have to do it! We are in a battle for our spiritual life. If we permit ourselves to respond with malice, spite, anger, accusations, and justifications, we permit spiritual darkness and death to enter our personality.
There is a place in God that I like to refer to as Heavenís tableland. We keep pressing through until we actually rise above the feelings of hatred and revenge. We walk hand in hand with Jesus through the meadows of glory. The birds are singing. The grass is greener than we have ever seen. The flowers are arrayed in colors never observed on earth. Our heart is pureófree from all strife. We are in Godís rest. How utterly marvelous!
We then are ready and glad to welcome everyone into the Kingdomóeven someone who has caused us pain. But on occasion God enters the picture and says, "No, that individual has sinned and must be chastened thoroughly. But it is well that your heart is clear."
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. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (I John 3:16-18)
We see from the above that love is something we do rather than something we feel. We give of ourselves as necessary for the welfare of others. As God guides and makes it possible, we share our material possessions when we see someone in need. Our love is not in words but in action.
We Americans tend to be fiercely independent. We hold the rights of individuals above the right of the social group. We tend, especially in the cities, to hide in our houses to a certain extent. We are anything but a communal society.
When Paul tells us we should work hard so we have enough to help others, this is difficult for us. It is so contrary to our culture, which encourages all of us to make a lot of money and invest it so we have far more than we actually need. The idea of "getting ahead" financially is ingrained deeply in American thinking.
Perhaps in the future our economic pattern will change so we are more charitable. If the churches are persecuted, we may have to help one another more than we do. Meanwhile we can recognize that God wants us to be aware of the needs of others and not live unto ourselves.
This then is how we know we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence Whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (I John 3:19-20)
We can have a clear conscience before God, if we want to.
In order to have a clear conscience before God we must come before God and tell Him we will obey Him in every detail; we will do whatever He wishes.
Have you ever done this? So many Christians have been taught that no one can do Godís will that they live under a cloud of doubt, being under the impression there is something they should be doing but they are not certain what it is. In addition, they fear that if they really heard from God He would want them to do something painful or impossible.
One factor that contributes to the cloud of doubt is the incessant emphasis on "getting out and saving souls." People listen to this exhortation Sunday after Sunday. They may feel that they should go from door to door, but they do not have the calling or grace to do this. So they sit in church under condemnation. Eventually they become numb and just agree with the pastor, believing they should go forth but realizing they never will.
This is a terrible way to walk as a child of God. God wants us to have an absolutely clear conscience before Him. We can, if this is what we wish.
It is as I said: Come before the Lord and tell Him you are ready to do whatever He wishes, knowing He always will provide the grace that His will may be performed with joy and peace.
If there is something you should be doing, God will tell you so and enable you to do it. The chances are you are right where you are supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing; but because you have never dared to come before the Lord like this, you have not realized that there is nothing else He wants you to do.
Try it and see! Of course, you have to be honest. If you know God is speaking to you about something, you have to be obedient. God will not have disobedient children.
But pleasing God is not nearly as difficult as that which is presented in some of the Christian churches, or as whatever ideas we have in our mind about what God expects of us.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God And receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. (I John 3:21,22)
When we are walking in the light of Godís Presence and will, having a clear conscience before Him, we are living as a victorious saint. The promises to the overcomer are for us. God then answers our prayers, because we are pleasing Him by obeying Him.
It is not necessary for a believer to live in defeat. It is easy to please the Lord. All we have to do is do what He tells us to do. And He always gives us grace to perform His will. It just is not all that difficult.
For whatever reason, Satan attempts to leave us with the impression doing Godís perfect will is difficult, impossible, or very unpleasant. None of this is true. Godís will is a delight.
Of course we have to discipline ourselves so we donít yield to some unprofitable urge. But this is the case with everyone in the world. Our world is under a curse because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. But God helps us.
We have to keep in mind that God is changing us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Naturally our adamic nature is not pleased with the change and will fight against it. But eventually our old nature yields as we keep on growing in Christ.
Finally we arrive at the place where Godís will and our will are the same will. This is an extremely desirable state in which to live. The fires of our youthful desires and passions burn down, our fears diminish, and we know before too long we will exchange our tired body for one with inexhaustible strength and energy.
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (I John 3:23)
It is not unusual for Christians to maintain that the only commands we have to obey are to believe in Jesus and love one another. As far as they are concerned, no other alteration of our behavior is needed.
The problem is, to love one another is the supreme command. It is the zenith of spiritual maturity. To say love is the only command is to try to climb a ladder by starting at the top rung.
To dwell in perfect love, which is to live on Heavenís tableland, requires a preceding program of arduous pressing into the Lord. So many varied pressures and temptations assail us as we begin to climb the ladder toward perfect love.
While we are young we are tempted by choices in many different directions: relationships with the opposite sex; higher education, if it is available; where we want to live; and what we want to make of our life. And then of course there are drugs and alcohol to contend with.
When we are middle aged and a member of a church we find there are numerous problems with relationships. Sometimes the pastor gets on our nerves. On other occasions there are divisions in the church and we are tempted to take one position or another.
Little by little we gain in experience and wisdom. Little by little we gain in spiritual strength. Little by little we climb toward that tableland of rest in Godís will, and toward a love that is not deflated by cruelty, or false accusations, or injustice. We live above the ebbing and flowing of the fleshly nature.
Yes, to believe in Christ, to abide in Him, to dwell in love, is the end of all commandments. But we donít jump from our initial acceptance of Christ to perfect love. We may think we can, but realistically we cannot.
Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (I John 3:24)
It is of total importance that we read the Bible with the idea in mind of doing what it invites and commands. We meditate in the Word each day, asking God to show us His will for our life. We invite Jesus into every decision we make, no matter how seemingly unimportant the decision may seem.
We talk to Jesus continually through the day, giving thanks when problems are solved, and praying when we encounter difficulties. Our mind, even though occupied with details and difficulties, is constantly reaching upward to the Lord.
We live in Him, and He in us. We dine on His flesh and blood. He dines on our obedience and worship. This dining goes on continually, night and day.
We become increasingly aware He is in us because of the Spirit we have. The Holy Spirit becomes ever more real to us. We realize every aspect of our life and ministry must be conducted by and through the Holy Spirit. Christ lives in us through the Spirit, and meanwhile His very Substance and Nature are being formed in us.
It is a life of strict, total obedience to the Lord.
The emphasis today of Bible teaching appears to be what we can get from God. There indeed is an abundance of passages in the Bible that offer help to us so we can make our way through life. Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so I will be free from pain." And God granted his request. There is manna that enables us to make our way through the wilderness, especially in the Book of Psalms.
But the present burden of the Holy Spirit seems to be that we learn to obey God promptly and thoroughly.
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. (I John 4:1)
Never be afraid to test the spirits to see whether they are from God.
I suppose there are many people like myself who hear from the Lord several times a day, who hold themselves before God in every decision they make.
Those of us who live like this are always in danger of being deceived. I can tell you from sad experience that Satan is able to imitate the voice of Christ until even a sincere Christian cannot tell the difference.
I realize dedicated Christians are under the impression they cannot be deceived. This is not true. Do you remember that the Lord told us to pray "lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one"?
I pray this way every day. I ask the Lord to keep me from being deceived. Every time I get the sense that God is going to speak to me, I pray this prayer.
We might think if God is in the middle of saying something to us that it would be an insult to stop and ask God in Jesusí name to permit us to hear only what is coming from His Throne. I have found that God never is displeased with our prayer to keep us from being deceived. I think the reason God never is displeased with the prayer to be kept from deception is because of First John 4:1. The inerrant Word tells us not to believe every spirit but to test the spirits to see whether they are from God.
The world is filled with voices claiming to be that of God. How can we tell the difference?
The best protection there is against deception is to patiently carry our cross behind the Lord Jesus each day; to remain patiently in the prison where God places us.
It is when we try to obtain something we desire fervently that we become deceived. God wants us to burn with desire only for Him. Whenever we burn with desire for something or someone other than God, the Lord may answer us according to our idol. Then we think we are hearing from the Lord, but we are not.
It may be true that deception is much more common than we think. Certainly the" pre-tribulation rapture" doctrine is deception. Certainly the recent "prosperity" and "faith" doctrines are deceptions. Certainly the idea that we are saved by a set of beliefs apart from our behavior is a gross deception. So we see that deception is more widespread among Christian people than one would expect.
The power of Satan, his ability to force us to do something, was destroyed on the cross. Therefore he has to accomplish his work in us by deceiving us, leading us to sin by our own choice. Satan cannot make us do anything?
Why does God permit us to be deceived when we want truth? One reason is that He told us to pray that we would not be led into temptation, and we donít pray this prayer often enough or fervently enough.
Sometimes He permits us to stumble so we might understand we are not as perfect as we think we are; that salvation is of the Lord, and only He can save us.
And there may be a host of other reasons of which we may not be aware. It is sufficient for us to know Jesus told us there would be deception in the last days, and there is. Many Christians have practically no defense against the wiles of the enemy. They are taken captive at his will because they never have been taught the way of discipleship. They merely are churchgoers, not disciples of Jesus at all. Naturally they are going to be deceived by spiritual lords who have had thousands of years of experience deceiving the Lordís people.
Many of us Christians in America are far too gullible, far too soft, far too worldly to stand in the day of spiritual battle. I think the events of the future are going to press us into Christ until we gain some of His strength and wisdom. We have been coddled. We have not been taught how to stand in the day of trouble, having been put to sleep by the unscriptural doctrine of the "pre-tribulation rapture" of Godís people into Heaven that they might not suffer during the era of physical and moral horrors that is on the horizon.
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. (I John 4:2,3)
The Spirit of God acknowledges Jesus; the spirit of Antichrist does not acknowledge Jesus. So we will recognize Antichrist by the fact that he will not acknowledge that Jesus is Godís Son, the Christ who is to come.
There is an interesting expression in the above passage: "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." The Spirit of God insists Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.
"In the flesh." We need to think about this.
From what I know of the philosophy termed Gnosticism, it emphasizes that spirit is good and matter is evil. Gnosticism would never agree that anything of God would come in the flesh. Gnosticism emphasizes knowledge, from whence it derives it name. The Gnostic redemption comes on the basis of the believer grasping a specific body of knowledge.
I believe there are two areas of current Christian teaching that reveal the influence of Gnosticism.
The first is our stress on specific knowledge as being a formula by which we are saved. If we subscribe to the "Statement of Faith" of our denomination we are saved. We do not always emphasize a day by day interaction with the living Jesus. Thus we are more Gnostic than Christian.
Second, we have lost sight of the physical aspects of the Kingdom of God. Whereas in the first century the Gospel was the good news that the Kingdom of God is coming to the earth, now the good news is that if we believe in Jesus we will go to Heaven when we die.
We have lost sight of the physical resurrection from the dead. We do not emphasize the resurrection today. We emphasize a catching up of the believers into the spirit Paradise, which is not a scriptural doctrine.
The Scripture teaches that we are caught up into the air, meaning the physical air. But this does not happen, according to the Scripture, until first we have been physically raised from the dead, or our physical body has been transformed in some manner.
If you ask the believers today if there will be a resurrection of their physical body, most of them will tell you they donít know. All they are sure of is that they are going to be carried up to Heaven at any moment.
If you ask them if their present body will be carried up to Heaven, they are not certain. They might presume that they will leave this present body behind and be carried in their spiritual body into a spiritual heaven.
The doctrine of the physical resurrection of the dead, after the manner of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, has been lost to the Church. We do not understand God plans on redeeming the physical world. Our understanding in this regard is Gnostic rather than Christian.
This is the work of Satan, of Antichrist. Why? Because Satan, a cherub, came down from the spirit realm into the earth, understanding that the physical earth is a superior realm when compared with the spirit heavens. Here he remains, being under the impression the earth and its peoples are his rightful domain.
It is Satan who is behind the idea that Christians are to vacate the earth and live for eternity in the spirit realm. He does not want Christians here. If it ever dawns on Christian people that apart from Christ they can do nothing of eternal value, and that they must set aside their own life that Christ may live in them, Satanís rulership over the earth will come to an end.
Satan has no fear of the Christian churches. He is afraid of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When even a few Christian people comprehend that the earth and its people are the inheritance of Christ and them, and assign their own lives to the cross that Christ may live in them, Satanís entire empire will be torn down.
If you were in Satanís place, wouldnít you want the Church to leave the earth?
The doctrine of the Kingdom of God is being restored in our day. The Kingdom of God is the physical realm indwelt by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When the Lord Jesus and His saints return to the earth they will drive out everything that is of Satan and install the government of God on the earth.
Antichrist denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. We know Jesus Christ came in the flesh because we saw Him eat the honeycomb. We know also that at His coming we will be raised from the dead in our physical body and then clothed upon with our incorruptible house from Heaven.
We know this is true. We grasp this fact. The earth and its peoples belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to us because we are coheirs with Him. Not one stick, not one ant on the ground, not one individual belongs to Satan. They all belong to us, and we belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
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. (I John 4:4)
Ordinarily we think of this verse in terms of power. We have overcome Antichrist and his forces because we have more power. This is not what the verse is referring to. It is speaking of truth. We overcome the doctrines of Antichrist because He who is the Truth from the Father is in us. Also, the Holy Spirit of Truth is in us.
Antichrist can overcome every force Christians seek to bring against him. But he cannot possibly overcome the truth that is in Jesus Christ. The truth of Christ finally will prevail against the lies of Antichrist, of the world spirit, of the false morning star, of Satan, of the false prophet.
We live in an ocean of lies at the present time. We need more of the Lord Jesus Christ, because only the Truth that is Christ is greater than the lies of Antichrist. By truth I do not mean theology. I mean the Life of Jesus Christ in us which is our Light. We know truth because He who is Truth is in us.
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. (I John 4:5,6)
John had that inner assurance that he knew the truth. This is why he was able to judge the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood in people by whether or not they listened to him.
John knew God. He knew the truth was in him. This is how he could speak with such conviction.
We emphasize theological truth with our " "Statement of Faith." Statements of Faith by and large are dead documents. They portray the conclusion believers have reached in time past. Statements of faith have to be made alive to each new generation as the saints interact with the living Jesus. It is this interaction with Jesus that is salvation.
Divine truth marches forward as God sets aside people and teaches them. Then they know what is truth and what is error. They did not study until they were able to arrive at truth. It came as the result of a personal encounter with the Lord. We know when we are having an encounter with the Lord, when He is teaching us.
There is much falsehood in todayís Christian teaching because the teachers and preachers are building on previous revelations. These revelations have since been encrusted with barnacles. They scarcely are recognizable as having come from the Lord.
The spirit of the world has penetrated even the Pentecostal ranks, and now we are attempting to build churches around the world, thinking that this must be what the Lord Jesus desires. But we really donít know. It is time for some of the Christian leaders to wait before the Lord until they hear what God wants today.
The Lord wants to lift us up to a tableland of glory that we have not known previously. As we are lifted up we will become increasingly incomprehensible to the world. The tendency today is to try to be "seeker friendly" so the people of the community will understand and enjoy the "services." There may be a place for such services, although I am not certain. The saints, however, will never come to maturity in such a milieu.
Does God want mature saints or a great number of spiritual babies, carnal churchgoers. Do you have an opinion on this?
Last Sunday was a highlight in our church. There was the most intense interaction I have seen to this point. Half of the congregation prayed for the other half, as we all repented and sought to be changed.
I would estimate the attendance at about 120 people.
I have always thought it would be nice to have a church with two or three thousand people in attendance. However, I have prayed each week that God would send only those whom He wanted present during the service. When I have thought about the people God has added to us over the last three years I am amazed. They really are quality saints!
As I thought about this Sunday morning, marveling at what was taking place, I realized the kind of service we had could not operate with more than 200 people.
I know pastors of the large churches hope to have this type of vitality in smaller groups that meet during the week. Last Sundayís service would never happen in a cell group or home group. There would not be a strong enough leadership to bring about such interaction. We had about four pastors in attendance plus a number of other strong Christian and leaders.
I know pastors of the large churches will have the people arrange themselves in small groups and pray for each other, during the Sunday morning service. I have experienced this when I attended a large church. I found myself in a group of six or seven strangers. In no way was it possible to do more than offer a few polite prayers. These were all strangers!
Last Sunday morning we knew nearly everyone who was there. Needs were made known. We were praying with familiar people, for the most part. It was, I hope, the beginning of increased body ministry in our assembly.
I am not advancing our service as a pattern for anyone else to follow. I am just observing the fact that if we watch the Lord and follow Him, forgetting about all the organizational plans and traditional emphases, God just might do a wonderful thing in our midst.
I am sick to death of men and their plans. I want to hear from the Lord Jesus Christ! In no way am I going to try to bring the world into the assembly, for these people bring the great lie with them. I have given our church to the Lord numerous times. It is His church and I want Him to build it in His own way. I do not need the help of the world. The world is of one spirit. I am of another. How do you feel about this?
Donít we care about people on the outside? Of course we do. We have an extensive Internet and book ministry. We have given away thousands of books free of charge to Third World countries as well as to various prisons and jails. From our church, people minister to the Philippines, Mexico, and the American Indians. But these ministries have sprung up as we have sought the Lord and worshiped Him, gaining victory over our sinful nature. Our eyes are on the Lord, and He is the one who is raising up ministry among us.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (I John 4:7-9)
All of Godís works are done in love.
I had a marvelous experience in Iceland. There God impressed me with His love. I saw, for example, how the Communion service was an expression of Divine love. I never saw that before. Previously I had emphasized that the Communion service was a covenant, and went into that subject in a sort of doctrinal way. But after Iceland I recognized that a Man was giving us His own flesh and blood because only in this manner could He reveal the intensity of His love.
I am well aware emotionally we could stand only the smallest part of Godís love. If God saw fit to expose us to His love we would die weeping. Godís love is so far above us that He can observe all sorts of violations of His Person and will, and still persevere with mankind.
When God gives us of His love we can forgive everyoneóeven those who have slandered us.
When John directs us to love one another he understands that we do not always have the Presence of Divine love in us. So we have to act as though we did, forgiving and helping others to the best of our ability. Also we must be on guard constantly that we do not permit a spirit of bitterness or unforgiveness to gain a foothold in our personality.
Religious organizations have not always been characterized by love. There have been the persecutions authorized by the Catholic Church. Within the Protestant denominations there has been much wrangling and infighting. Just because we call ourselves Christian does not mean we have love.
Love is our goal. It is a long, hard struggle to climb the rugged slopes of Mount Zion. But when we arrive at the summit we will find that we have grown in our ability to act toward others in a constructive manner, even when we do not feel particularly loving.
We can look forward to a future in which the love of God through the Lord Jesus Christ toward people will be the environment in which we live. There is no greater joy than that of sharing Godís love with someone to whom we have been directed by the Spirit.
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you," the Lord said. "Continue in my love." He will share His love with us. But first we have to go through a wilderness of doubts, fears, deferred desires, and other chastenings.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (I John 4:9)
I think it is important that John did not say, at least at this point, that God sent His Son into the world to forgive our sins. I think this has been the traditional emphasis of the Christian churches.
John says, rather "that we might live through Him."
Living through Christ is quite a bit different than just having our sins forgiven.
If I am hearing the Lord correctly, He is emphasizing the passage in Revelation that speaks of His standing at the door and knocking, asking for admittance.
While this verse sometimes is addressed to the unsaved, it actually is written to the church of Laodicea. I think the church of Laodicea had many of the characteristics we see today in the churches in America.
The church in Laodicea believed it had need of nothing. It was content to serve God in its own way. "Let us wear our own clothes and eat our own food but be called by your name." I think this too often is the attitude today. We will call ourselves Christian, but we will govern our own life and operate the assembly as we see best.
The Lord is asking for admittance, I believe. It is up to each individual to hear the voice of the Lord and open the door. Then the Lord will enter our personality and dine with us. He dines on our obedience and worship. We dine on His flesh and blood.
I donít hear too much preaching today about the flesh and blood of Christ. I have already mentioned in this present article how important the flesh and blood of Christ are. We have been forgiven by the blood of the cross. The blood of the Lord works to demolish the sinful nature in us. The Passover blood shields us when Divine judgment is in the land. The flesh and blood of the Lamb will raise us up in the last day.
More than this, it is the flesh and blood of the Lamb, the Substance of Christ, that nourishes our inward nature and builds up Christ in us. From this point forward we are to live by His flesh and blood, which we receive every time we turn from our old nature and do what the Holy Spirit is prompting us to do. The flesh and blood of Christ are true food and drink, and we must feed on these continually in the closing days of the Church Age.
The churches have been at salvation. The churches have been at Pentecost. The third great work of God is the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles.
We are saved through the blood atonement. We are given wisdom and power through the Holy Spirit. Now we have come to the hour when the Lord Jesus wants to enter us in a far greater manner than ever before. This is the Kingdom of God. The blood provides the authority and the Spirit gives us the wisdom and power. Now Godís intention is being revealed, and we see that His intention is to live in us; to make us His eternal dwelling place.
"That we might live through Him."
The Lord wants us to abandon ourselves to Him so He might dwell in us as never before. The dwelling of Christ in us is Godís answer to the spiritual darkness of the closing days of the Church age.
The basic salvation experience and the baptism with the Holy Spirit will not prove to be sufficient for the spiritual darkness that is at hand. We must have Christ living in us, dining with us continually, if we are to stand and help others to stand during the darkness and pressures we are facing.
The hour is coming when no man can work. But those who are willing to die in the Lord will be able to stand and work because it will be God in them who is standing and working.
"That we might live through Him"!
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 4:10)
Salvation is from the Lord. He began our salvation with His death on the cross. He is conducting His plan of redemption with exceedingly great care. He will finish His plan, creating an unblemished Bride for the Lamb who will be able to serve in all the areas of the Kingdom of God that God has ordained.
Jesus Christ is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. What He began so perfectly He shall complete just as perfectly. In fact, the glory of the latter house shall be greater than that of the former. He has kept the best wine until now.
There is an unfortunate tendency among the Christians of our day to attempt to find ways to use God to get what we want; to have a better lifeóbetter in our terms. The Christian bookstores are replete with all sorts of books and booklets that tell us how to use God to get what we want.
We simply do not understand what is taking place. We are seeking to discover how to have God fulfill our dreams, instead of seeking to discover how we can fulfill Godís dreams. The slaves have become the masters.
But then, it is the age of Antichrist.
Will we ever escape this self-centeredness? Perhaps as individuals.
I notice how easy it will be for Satan, after a thousand years of the righteous rule of the saints, to deceive the nations so they once again rebel against God and His people.
Why donít we just trust God and take our hands off the Ark! There is no telling what wonderful things God might do if we would get out of the way.
John mentions "the atoning sacrifice for our sin." Every aspect of the Kingdom of God is possible only because of the atoning sacrifice made by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb. No matter what accusation Satan hurls at the Church, the blood of the Lamb answers with the certainty that Godís justice has been satisfied
This does not mean, however, that Christians can walk in known sin and the blood of the Lamb will satisfy Godís sense of righteousness. This is a huge mistake that is being made today.
Under both the old covenant and the new covenant, the only sins for which atonement can be made by blood are the sins of which the individual is not aware. There is no provision under either covenant for willful sin, that is, sin of which we are aware and commit knowingly and willfully. Under the old covenant the willful sinner is to be cut off from his people. Under the new covenant the willful sinner becomes the enemy of God.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, But only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26,27)
"The Lord will judge His people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (I John 4:11)
God is ready to forgive our numerous transgressions. We also ought to be quick to forgive those who sin against us.
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they donít know what they are doing."
This so often is true of people who harm us. In almost every case, they do not know what they are doing. Even when they do, they are driven by forces they themselves do not understand. If we are patient, we sometimes see them come to their senses and ask our forgiveness. In such instances, we absolutely must forgive; unless, of course, we do not want God to forgive us.
It can be almost impossible to forgive someone who has treated us unjustly. In this case we are to ask God to give us the blood of Jesus. There is virtue in the blood. Ever since Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing," that virtue of forgiveness is in His blood. There is enough power there to enable you to forgive someone no matter what he has done to you.
Try it and see! Lay hold on the flesh and blood of Christ. They will nourish and strengthen you against the difficult days of the future.
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (I John 5:12,13)
God lives in us when we are compassionate and forgiving. God wants us to be merciful toward everyone. When we are, God takes care of any vengeance that is needed. We always are to be children in malice.
The fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in us is proof we are living in God and God is living in us.
One might ask, "How can I know the Spirit of God is dwelling in me?"
If the Spirit is dwelling in you, then you are beginning to show forth love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Such virtues are the fruit of the Spirit of God. They are not the fruit of the Christian but the fruit of the Spirit. The more of the Spirit you have, the more these characteristics are exhibited.
But isnít speaking in tongues the sign the Spirit is in us? Hardly! There are people who speak in tongues who are hateful, miserable, anxious, impatient, unkind, bad, treacherous, harsh, and who lack self-control. Tongues are not the evidence that the Spirit of God is dwelling in us. Rather, speaking in tongues builds us up so the fruit of the Spirit might grow in us.
We build ourselves up when we speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues leads us into the rest of God, into the place where we are living by Godís will rather than our own.
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. (I John 1:14)
Let me emphasize once again that Jesus does not save the world merely by forgiving the sins of the people. What good would that do for the Kingdom of God? What hope would it offer for the future?
Jesus saves the world by taking away the sin; by destroying the works of the devil. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I do not see this emphasis in the little bit I have learned about the history of the Christian Church. Even in our day the emphasis is on forgiveness, not on the bringing forth of new creations of righteous behavior.
The world is sick today, sick because of destructive relationships. Forgiving the practices of destructive relationships does little good if these relationships are not healed. Can you see that?
Consider the parable of the prodigal son. The son came to himself and realized that he had harmed himself by leaving his fatherís house. He left the slops and returned home. This is the fundamental story of mankind.
But now what? The boy was out of the slops, but were the slops out of the boy? Until the slops are out of the boy, the fatherís house is not going to be a pleasant place to be. There will be partying, drunkenness, reveling, fighting, immorality, and every other painful, harmful, unpleasant scene one can imagine.
It often is true that the "slops" are not removed from us just because we have "accepted Christ." (I enclose accepted Christ in quotation marks because this expression is not found in any of my translations of the Bible.) It may take many years before the love of God is governing our inward nature.
The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. Perhaps we have come now to a period of time when God is ready to remove the compulsion of sin from His people. Such moral deliverance has to come at some point, why not now?
I know the Holy Spirit is calling attention to our sinful practices, and is giving us the desire and the strength to confess them and turn away from them. I know this is true because in our church we are practicing this. We are repenting of our wicked ways and turning away from them. To say this is not possible is unrealistic. It is scriptural and it is taking place!
All things considered, we must be entering an era of moral deliverance, of the purifying of the Bride of the Lamb.
Matthew tells us that in the last days the messengers of God will remove sin and sinners from His Kingdom. I actually believe this is taking place today.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior, our Redeemer. That He has forgiven us is marvelous. That He is willing to remove the very presence of sin from us is infinitely more marvelous. This is precisely what He is accomplishing in our time.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. (I John 5:15)
We know John is not saying the mere acknowledgment of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God is proof God is living in us. The demons know, perhaps better than we do, that the Lord Jesus is the Holy Son of God.
I would say that John was resisting people who were claiming that they knew God but denied that Jesus is the Son of God. John is maintaining that if they truly believe Jesus is Godís Son, then God is living in them. But if they do not believe Jesus is Godís Son, then God is not dwelling in them.
The Apostle Paul claimed that no person can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. In the old days of Pentecost, if we thought someone did not have a right spirit, we would tell him to say "Jesus is Lord." We believed that if he did not have the Spirit of God he could not say this.
Again, as in the case of what John said about acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God, we may think of Paul resisting those who were cursing Jesus. Paul said no one could say by the Spirit, "Jesus be cursed." Evidently Jewish teachers were doing this.
I notice today that the demons will say whatever they wish about Jesus. So these are not tests we are to use. Rather we have to watch the fruit of the actions of people if we want to know whether or not they are living in God and speaking by the Spirit.
We are very gullible today. This is why the "pre-tribulation rapture," which obviously is unscriptural, has gained the ground among Christians that it has, along with the "faith" and "prosperity" emphases. After what the Apostle Paul wrote we should know beyond doubt that the Spirit of God is not telling Christians how to become rich.
But American believers often are deceived. They do not love the truth, and so God Himself deceives them. This is where we are today.
As John said previously, "No person who hates his brother has eternal life." He may speak in tongues. He may say "Jesus is Lord." He may acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. But if he hates his brother, there is no eternal life in him. He is a murderer.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (I John 4:16)
John, to this point, seems to have two main themes, doesnít he. One is that we are to keep Godís commandments and not sin. The other has to do with living in love. Being an older Christian, I realize what a mark of perfection it is to live in love. It is the climax of a long journey through the wilderness of life.
Yet, as John says, to live in love is to live in God.
Divine love is not something we can declare and then do. We should obey the New Testament by being kind to one another. But Divine love is just that. It is a power that comes from above and is greatly to be coveted. God gives us of His love when we live in obedience to Him and ask Him for more of His love.
There are church members today who talk much about love but lack integrity. There can be no true love apart from integrity, faithfulness, and truth.
In this way, love is made complete among us so we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. (I John 4:17)
There is a common understanding among Christian people that they have nothing to fear when they are made manifest at the Judgment seat of Christ. This confidence is unrealistic. It is not based in the Scriptures.
If we are not like Christ in the present world, then we need to tremble at the thought of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
At the Judgment Seat we shall receive the good we have done and the bad we have done. Grace does not affect what takes place at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but it does enable us to prepare for Divine judgment if we permit it to.
It is my opinion that the Judgment Seat of Christ is taking place today. I base this opinion on what the Apostle Peter declared concerning God being ready to judge the living and the dead, and also on my own experience.
It is written that it is appointed to men once to die, and after this the judgment. I am of the opinion that when we count ourselves dead with Christ on the cross, and then behave according to this conviction, that we now are eligible to be made manifest before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The Holy Spirit brings up our sinful nature a piece at a time. Some of our sin is in the form of the love of the world. Some has to do with the lusts and passions that reside in our flesh. Some is in the realm of self-will and self-centeredness.
As our sin is brought to our attention we are to confess it, denouncing it vigorously, declaring by the Lordís help we never again wish to have this compulsion in us. God then is faithful and just to forgive our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness. The forgiveness is instantaneous. The purifying takes a while.
There are two aspects of this Divine judgment that we are experiencing.
First, the judgment is against Satan, not against us. Once we declare that what we have done is wicked and not of God, the judgment falls on Satan. We are held guiltless because an atonement has been made for us through the blood of the cross.
Second, it is an eternal judgment (see the sixth chapter of the Book of Hebrews). This behavior shall never be mentioned to us again. We have confessed it and have asked God to remove it from us. This is our part. Godís part is to forgive us and remove the darkness from us.
If you donít believe this is a genuine experience of redemption, ask God to show you.
I am saying we can pass completely through the Judgment Seat of Christ during our lifetime. I would imagine there might be vestiges of our sinful nature that Christ will destroy when He appears, but only on the condition that we have been faithful in the present hour.
I know the churches are expecting that when the Lord comes He shall remove our sinful nature. Well, the Lord indeed has come in the spirit realm and is purifying us. But if we are not faithful in the present operation, then you can be certain when the Lord returns we will be regarded as a disobedient, lazy servant.
My personal point of view is that only those who have been judged previously will be prepared for the resurrection unto life that will take place then the Lord appears. How could we be resurrected unto life before our sinful nature has been dealt with?
One may ask, how about the people of God who are deceased? How shall they be prepared for the return of the Lord.
Peter said God is ready to judge the living and the deadóthe dead as well as the living! So we do not have to worry. God knows what He is doing. Our worry should be, are we obeying Christ today? That should be our principal concern.
We simply cannot have confidence on the Day of Judgment unless we are becoming like Him while living in this world.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 1:18)
If we really love Jesus we have no fear of judgment. However, loving Jesus is not an emotion. Keeping His commandments is the only valid evidence that we love Him.
We are made perfect in love as we draw near to the Lord, looking to Him at all times, thinking about Him, giving thanks continually, and listening carefully to what He has to say. This is what is true of us if we are being made perfect in love.
But if we are not continually drawing near to the Lord, looking to Him at all times, thinking about Him, giving thanks continually, and listening carefully to what He has to say, then we love him only in our words. We say we love Christ, but our heart is elsewhere.
The Lord loves us and wants us to be near Him at all times. When we obey, turning our attention to Christ, setting our mind on things above, then we have no fear of judgment. The Holy Spirit will point out to us the parts of our personality that are not in harmony with the Lordís personality. Then we gladly turn away from these behaviors. In this manner we remain in His love and have no fear of judgment.
In fact, the closer we draw to the Lord the more we enjoy the Divine Fire. We develop a passion for holiness. We love nothing better than to be baptized with fire continually; to dwell in Christ in the very Center of Godís holy Person and will.
Godís fire, the fire of His holy Person, is addictive. As soon as we taste it we crave more and more. We simply cannot get enough of Godís fiery Presence. Indeed, the things of the world grow strangely dim after we once experience what it is like to dwell in God and God in us.
We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:19)
We did not love God nor did we choose God. This is why I am not fond of the expression "accept Christ." I suppose this statement is all right to use as long as we understand Christ chose us; we did not choose Him.
God in different manners and on different occasions spoke to the Hebrew patriarchs and prophets. Today God speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. The initiative always is Godís, not ours.
Religion is man seeking God. The Christian salvation is God seeking man.
It is my opinion that we should restore the initiative to God, where it belongs.
I was given the distinct impression in Bible school that God was waiting for us to do something. No one told me that God knows what He is doing. No one told me that God cares more about the people of the world that I do. No one told me that Godís plan of redemption is being carefully administrated by God Himself. No one told me that Jesus said He would build His own Church. No one told me that the Lord adds to the Church daily such as should be saved.
Rather I was taught that it is all up to us. Souls are sliding into Hell every moment because no one cares enough to do anything about it.
It has taken me a number of years to relax, knowing that God is aware of all He is doing and is in perfect control. Why should I fret about the wicked when God is laughing at their foolish attempts to evade His will?
How can we enter the rest of God until we are certain all things were completed during six days of creation, and God is resting while the power of His Word is bringing to pass everything God desires?
What then is our part? Our part is to enter that rest, that is, to cease attempting to create our own heaven and earth, and just walk humbly with God each day, practicing righteousness and loving mercy.
Itís difficult, isnít it, to believe God is working His own will in the earth; that He actually has everything under control, and all we have to do is find His will for our life and do it? But any Christian activity other than this is Babylonóman-directed religion.
We love God because He first loved us. The initiative is His. He is not asking us to be people of great faith and power, daring God to do something that is tremendous in our sight. God asks only that we rest in Him, that we delight ourselves in Him. If we will do this, we shall sing and dance in the heights of Zion while the world is in flames.
"Oh Brother Thompson, you donít care about people."
Yes I do, particularly about the people God sends my way. But I am on Godís side, not on the side of people. When Godís wrath falls, then I trust God that such is necessary. I know God is righteous in all He does.
The most helpful thing we can do for mankind is to perform Godís will as conscientiously as possible, and then to delight ourselves in the Lord. To join with people and question Godís love, as some do, helps no one. It actually puts us on the side of Satan, who always is accusing God of being unrighteous.
If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (I John 4:20,21)
The people of America speak a great deal about love, that is, about adamic loveóthe love we can dredge up from our fallen nature. I think they can see the value of love, but in no way can they demonstrate love consistently. In most instances, as soon as there is sufficient perversity and injustice, the human love vanishes like a drop of water on a hot stove.
Much is said in the Christian churches about love. But again, when the people try to be obedient and show love toward others, this human love will fail rapidly when there is sufficient evil present.
And so, our culture is filled with rape and violence of all sorts. Murder is common, along with lying and fraud. We donít have money enough to build the needed prisons. Our culture is not one of love but of a grasping for money or some other satisfaction.
The churches contain numerous Christians who are bitter, filled with unforgiveness and hatred. Gossip and slander are common among Christiansóso common, in fact, that I wonder how many pastors truly believe gossip and slander can be overcome during the present life.
So we have murder in the world and murder in the churches.
Anyone who says he loves God, and yet hates his brother, is a liar, according to the Apostle John. And John is writing to Christian people. "Whoever loves God must also love his brother."
God help us! As I have said before, the best we can do is to make every effort to be kind and constructive, whether or not we feel like it. We certainly must stop all gossip and evil or spiteful talk concerning other people.
As we do the best we can, and then pray for Godís Divine love to enter our personality, I believe God will hear us and answer our petition. But I think first we must be fully persuaded if we donít do this, if we donít get rid of our bitterness and unforgiveness, then we can expect to suffer from Godís judgment on us.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (I John 5:1)
Again we may be tempted to accept the doctrine that if we merely make a profession of belief that Jesus is the Christ, no further demands will be made on our behavior. Remember, John is arguing against those who were denying that Jesus is the Christ who is to come. John is not giving us a way of receiving the righteousness of God apart from living a godly life.
Everyone who loves the Father will love His Son.
Every person of sound mental and emotional health probably has somewhere in his soul a love for God and a desire to please God. This is only natural. In America this simple love for God may be removed from us through our educational programs.
So there are no doubt billions of people in the world who, in one manner or another, are seeking to please God.
We probably know of the religious devotion of the Muslims and the Hindus. These two groups of people may be more fervent in their religious practices than is true of many American Christians. But they donít know about or love the Lord Jesus Christ.
Doesnít God see all these fervent people? Of course He does, and He loves them. God loves the people of the world, not the spirit of the world but the people of the world. They all are His children, in a general sense.
Then God picks out an individual and brings that person to Jesus. No human being can come to Jesus until the Father draws him or her. When the Father draws someone to Jesus, then Jesus, who always obeys the Father, will never turn away that individual.
This we know.
But the question is, why only one here and one there; or one village here and one village there? Why not every person on earth? Why doesnít the Father draw every person on earth to the Lord Jesus.?
The answer according to present thinking is, "Because we are not willing to go forth and bring them in." This was the answer given to me in Bible school. This also may be the answer that was given to some of my readers.
So we are back in the same old bondage, the same old guilt, not being able to face God because we have failed to go out and rescue these people from Hell.
You can believe this if you want to, but it is human reasoning. It is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that God is willing that all people repent. But when we read everything else it says, we see that God is in control of bringing people to Jesus, and Jesus gives such people eternal life.
How then can God judge the world if he works in terms of His own will? Paul asked this question, didnít he? There is no answer to it, at least none that I have heard of. Paul said God is the Potter and He makes one vessel one way and another for a different purpose. Paul also said a person may make the effort to become a vessel of honor, and should do so.
All I know is, God is righteous. When He states that a situation is righteous, it is righteous. We are in no position to argue with God, as Job found out. The crucifixion of Godís Son on the cross of Calvary proves Godís love for the world beyond doubt.
So we have to leave the fairness of God bringing individuals to Christ to Godís wisdom and righteousness. I am sure that when all has been made known to us that we then will understand Godís righteousness more clearly.
If we truly love God, then we love His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is all there is to that!
This is how we know we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, (I John 5:2,3)
Loving God, and loving the children of God, consists of carrying out Godís commands
What are Godís commands, and where do we find them?
We find Godís moral law in the Old Testament. The Ten Commandments reflect the unchanging moral law of God, which existed prior to the Law of Moses and will be the same for eternity. The eternal moral law of God does not change, because it reflects what God is.
The Old Testament commands us to be righteous, holy, and obedient to God. These moral principles never change.
We find Godís commandments in the four Gospel accounts. The Lord Jesus did not speak from His own mind or spirit but said what the Father told Him to say.
The Lord Jesus commanded us to be righteous, holy, and obedient to God.
We find Godís commandments in the rest of the New Testament. The Spirit of God in the writers of the New Testament commanded us to be righteous, holy, and obedient to God.
We find Godís commandments for ourselves personally as we present our body a living sacrifice and thereby prove the will of God. God directs us personally to be righteous, holy, and obedient to God.
Sometimes God gives us specific assignments. Then we are to be righteous, holy, and obedient to God in the tasks He has given us.
Godís commandments have been in force from the beginning and remain in force. The difference now is we have the Holy Spirit, the flesh and blood of Christ, the born-again experience, the testimony of the Apostles, and every other grace, wisdom, and help necessary to enable us to be righteous, holy, and obedient to God.
God will not have fellowship with unrighteous behavior.
God will not have fellowship with an unclean personality.
God will not have fellowship with anyone who does not obey Him.
It is as simple as that.
In the beginning our sins are forgiven through the blood of the cross. The purpose of such forgiveness is that we might have a clear conscience toward God and begin to learn from the Spirit of God how to behave righteously, how to rid ourselves from all uncleannesses of the flesh and spirit, and how to obey God perfectly and completely.
Any doctrine that does not emphasize righteous behavior, holiness of personality, and stern obedience to the Father, is not of God but of Antichristóthe one who denies that Jesus is the Christ.
For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (I John 5:4,5)
As you might imagine, the above two verses are employed to prove all we have to do to overcome the world is have faith that Jesus is the Son of God. This is not what the verses mean. They mean through faith that Jesus is the Son of God we are able to overcome the darkness that is in the world. We actually overcome it in our behavior, not by mere identification with Christ, as some have supposed.
Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Through Him we are able to overcome the forces that come against us. To say that we have already overcome because we are identified with Christ is to claim we in our untransformed moral state have automatically been transformed because of our association with Christ. This concept is totally unscriptural and impractical. It is illusory, another of the images that leave the impression we are like Jesus Christ when we in actuality have never been changed into His image.
The people of the world know we have not been transformed. We are the only ones under this impression.
We might stop and think, at this point, about the entire question of "faith alone," the concept that by holding a certain belief system in our mind we are counted righteous apart from any actions on our part.
There are some things we can acknowledge as truth which demand no action on our part. But there is other information we can acknowledge as truth that makes severe demands on us. In this latter instance we cannot say we actually have acknowledged the truth, except in some purely mental sense, unless we meet these demands. It would be as though our acknowledging the truth has made the truth a real experience in our life even though we have done nothing about the accompanying demands.
There are facts we acknowledge and believe. Some of them demand practically no response at all. I am referring to these as having minimum severity of consequences, meaning if we choose to believe these facts and yet not act on what we have been taught there are practically no consequences.
An example of this would be the concept that heat is associated with the motion of molecules. You can choose to believe this. There are few if any consequences if you believe this and yet do nothing about your belief.
Then there are other areas of information we might acknowledge and believe, that have moderate severity of consequences if we do not act on them. For instance, the weather forecast might be for light sprinkles tomorrow. We may choose to wear a raincoat or not. If we do not, and it sprinkles, we might get a little wet; but this is not a severe consequence.
Finally there is information we might acknowledge and believe has maximum severity of consequences if we do not act on it. We might have been informed that a fire near us is burning out of control and is approaching our house. If we choose not to respond appropriately the consequences may be severe.
When the doctrine of "faith alone" is emphasized, we may read in the Bible about the consequences of not doing what the New Testament commands, but because of the unscriptural doctrine of "faith alone" we may choose not to pay heed to the several warnings concerning living in our sinful nature. We may do nothing about the warnings although we believe the Bible is the Word of God.
There are very severe consequences for believing the New Testament is the Word of God and then not doing what it commands.
If we believe certain information is true, and this information makes demands on us, and yet we do not meet those demands, the fact that we believe this information is true and factual does not benefit us. If we do not meet the demands outlined in the information, there may be severe consequences. This especially is true in the case of the Word of God.
Now letís think for a moment about the above verseó"He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God overcomes the world." You know, there is a teaching today that the rewards to the overcomer, set forth in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, automatically are assigned to every individual who "believes that Jesus is the Son of God." No actual overcoming of sin is required. It is enough to believe Jesus is the Son of God.
I would suspect that this teaching of "faith alone" is derived from the Apostle Paulís statement that Abraham was judged righteous because he had believed the fantastic promise of God. Therefore we can be counted righteous by believing in Christ apart from any action on our part.
Before I probe more deeply into this, let me remind the reader that Paulís purpose in placing so much emphasis on Abraham receiving righteousness apart from works is to prove God can call people righteous apart from the Law of Moses. Paul would be astonished, I guess, if we Gentiles were using his argument to prove we can be termed righteous while believing in Christ and continuing to live according to our sinful nature.
However, there is some indication that even during Paulís lifetime people were wresting his teaching of grace to their own destruction. This probably is why the sixth chapter of Romans begins with the question (and I sense Paulís indignation in this question), "What are we to conclude? Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?"
But letís probe a bit, as I said.
He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the starsóif indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5,6)
What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Romans 4:3)
Abraham believed God when God told Abraham that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars.
What took place when Abraham believed?
First of all, God counted Abrahamís belief, in the face of the impossible, as righteousness.
Second, Abrahamís belief made it possible for Godís promise to be activated. We remember that the Lord Jesus did not do many miracles in His home town because of their lack of faith. Belief opens a channel through which God can work.
Third, Abraham had to make an effort to believe; so Abrahamís belief was an act of obedience. Therefore, what brought righteousness may have been obedience.
In todayís preaching, the reason we obtain righteousness through faith (we think) is not that we look up in actual faith and exercise hope in the faithfulness of God, but that our belief that God has said itóapart from any love for God or hope in Godís faithfulnessóinsures the fulfillment of the promise.
What we have today is a kind of mental magic: "I believe in the facts of theology as presented in the Bible and then analyzed and systematized by the human mind. It is my acknowledgment that God actually has said these things that brings righteousness to me."
Now let us think about God commanding Abraham to offer his son as a burnt offering. Abraham had to make the effort to believe God said this. He could have thrust it out of his mind. I think obedience began when Abraham chose to receive Godís Word.
Now, suppose Abraham had said to himself: "I know I am held to be righteous because of my faith in God. I know God has told me to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. I believe this. Therefore I am righteous."
And then did nothing about it. Would Abraham have been righteous on the basis of his belief that God had spoken to him? Of course not! So belief is tied closely to obedience, isnít it?
We know Abraham would not have been counted righteous in this case. Why? Because his faith did not result in obedience. His faith alone would not have brought righteousness to him.
Is this true of us? When we believe Jesus is the Son of God, does our belief alone overcome the world?
We believe an atonement has been made for our sins through the offering of the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Our faith activates the promise of God and we are justified in Godís sight. There is nothing we are to do but believe.
Then the Lord Jesus, through the Apostle Paul, commanded us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.
Does the fact we believe what the Apostle said is Godís Word bring righteousness to us? Or does obeying what Paul said bring righteousness to us?
So we see that in some instances, it is sufficient to acknowledge that God has spoken, and then to rejoice in hope because we know God is faithful and what He said is true, even though there is nothing we can see and nothing we can do about it. This is true in the case of the blood atonement.
Then in other instances it is not sufficient to acknowledge that God has spoken. Rather, we have to prove our faith by doing what God has commanded.
We understand then that in one instance faith does not require anything more than belief in the faithfulness of God. But in another instance faith requires action on our part.
How do we overcome the world? Is it by acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God? Did not the demons do this? Or is it by following Christ as He leads us from victory to victory over the dark forces in the world? We follow Christ like this because we believe He is the Son of God.
We are not teaching justification by faith today. Rather we are teaching justification by a sort of magical application of a formulaóa formula devoid of love for God and hope in the faithfulness of God. It is a mindset, a belief system, not faith.
There is no righteousness or salvation in a belief system, no matter how scriptural it may be. The righteousness and salvation are in a Person, in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not enough that we believe He is the Son of God. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him at all times if we are to pass from death to life.
What we have today is a philosophy like any other philosophy. It is not a living interaction with a living Person. There is no eternal life in it.
This is the one who came by water and bloodóJesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (I John 5:6)
John may have been thinking of the followers of John the Baptist. There is a cult, the Mandeans, located in Iraq for the most part, who believe John the Baptist was Christ. To this day they practice ceremonials that involve water. They are Gnostic in belief.
The Lord Jesus did not come by water only, but by bloodóthe blood of atonement. John the Baptist baptized in water as an act of repentance, but John did not make an atonement by shedding his blood on the cross.
John the Baptist was a remarkable man, filled with the Holy Spirit. It is no wonder that he still has followers. Yet John would be the first to say he was not worthy to tie the thongs of the sandals of Jesus. John was the friend of the Bridegroom, nothing more. Yet, John was the equal of any of the prophets of Israel.
For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. (I John 5:7,8)
The Spirit of God always testifies that Jesus is the Son of God and the Christ. This is the Spiritís role, as determined by the Father.
The water of baptism testifies of the death and resurrection of Christ. We are baptized in water to indicate our desire to be crucified with Christ, and then to walk in newness of life in the power of His resurrection.
The blood of the Lamb makes an atonement for the sins of the world, and tells us that God through Christ has reconciled the world to Himself.
The Spirit, the water, and the blood all agree that Jesus Christ is Godís Son, the Christ who is to come. He was baptized by John the Baptist to portray the end of the first creation and the beginning of the new world of righteousness, the Kingdom of God. The blood agrees that God has chosen to forgive the sins of the world that Christ might receive the world as His inheritance. All of the creation now belongs to Him, in that He has purchased the world and all who dwell in the world with His own blood.
We accept manís testimony, but Godís testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. (I John 5:9)
We accept the testimony of a human being when he tells us of what he has seen and knows for a fact. But God speaks through His Spirit concerning His Son. God spoke from the open Heaven when Jesus was baptized in water, declaring Jesus is His Son in whom He is well pleased. God spoke concerning His Son on the cross until even the Roman centurion exclaimed: "Surely this man was the Son of God." God bore witness again by raising Christ from the dead.
Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (I John 5:10)
Sometimes people argue about whether or not there is a God; and if there is, what is He like?
My advice to them is, "Why donít you ask Him and find out for yourself?"
People can use this argument and that argument to prove or disprove the existence of God. Since God is alive, the most effective way to find out about God is to pray and ask Him if He exists and what His plan is for your life.
When the Gospel of salvation first came to my attention it sounded like a good plan. But I was not certain there even was a God. So I prayed that if there was a God He would give me faith to believe. The next morning I woke up with enough faith to believe there was a God and to believe I was to worship Christ as the Son of God.
The Lord said if we would do His will we would know of His teaching, whether it came from God or whether He was speaking from His own personality.
I saw this as a kind of contract. If I would do what He said, then He would show me if He indeed is the Son of God and speaking from God.
So I did everything I knew to do at that time that would please God. Sure enough. My faith grew rapidly. Also I had a dramatic born-again experience in which the night sky looked different somehow.
About two weeks later I was discouraged. I took my Bible, opened it at random, closed my eyes, and asked God to speak to meóif there was a God.
Then I put my finger on the page randomly, and opened my eyes.
Under my finger was a passage from Proverbs, beginning with "My son."
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, For they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3:1-4)
Can you imagine the probability of my finger landing on those words. Here I am, fifty-nine years later, telling people to keep Godís commandments.
And then people doubt there is a God!
The strongest proof Jesus is Godís Son is in the heart of the Christian. As the years roll by there is increasing evidence in us that Jesus indeed is Godís Son. We know Christ is Divine and alive because He is in us and He is with us. We know there is eternal life in us because we are experiencing an inward life of which the world knows nothing.
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (I John 5:11)
The surest testimony of the sonship of the Lord Jesus is the eternal life that we Christians have. The term "eternal life" does not refer as much to duration as it does to the quality of life that it is. There is biologic life and then there is eternal Divine Life, the Life of God Himself.
We can feel eternal life in ourselves and we can see it in other people. True Christians have in themselves a deeply settled peace and joy.
When individuals turn back into sin, one can see the death in them. It is obvious. Also, they themselves feel the loss. It is a sobering experience to see a backslider at the altar attempting to feel once again the joy of the Lord.
This peace, this joy, is absolute proof God has sent Jesus Christ, and Christ is Godís Son. Otherwise we would not have the peace and joy that come with worshiping Jesus Christ.
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (I John 5:12)
All mankind is spiritually dead, cut off from the Life of God. Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ we are little more than intelligent dust, although we have been made in the image of God.
Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life. He was the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, and He is the Tree of Life, and the only tree of life, today.
The adamic nature we have inherited is spiritually dead because of the rebellion of Adam and Eve. The life we have as a human being operates by means of the circulation of blood and the breathing of oxygen. It is a corruptible life, soon to wither and pass away. There are a few brief years during which we are strong and active. But all too soon we begin to tire, and it is not long after that, that we are facing death.
The life of the human being actually is not an enviable state.
Eternal life, the Life of Christ, is something else again. It never withers and dies. It is filled with love, joy, and peaceówith every desirable condition. If we live in the eternal life that God has given us, the day certainly shall come when our flesh and bones are raised from the dead and clothed with a robe of the same eternal life we now are enjoying.
Because Christian people think of eternal life only in terms of eternal existence, they do not realize it is a kind of life force. This life force is given to us when we first make a profession of belief in Christ. After that, we have to maintain the life that was given to us so freely. As Paul told Timothy, we have to lay hold on eternal life.
While we are in the world, eternal death, the life of Satan, is continually attempting to govern our personality. Every day the struggle is between eternal life and eternal death. We are the ones who decide which form of life will triumph in our personality.
The world tempts us with eternal death. The sinful nature dwelling in our flesh tempts us with eternal death. Our desire to lead our own life apart from the will of Jesus Christ tempts us with eternal death.
The eternal Divine Life, the Life of the Holy Spirit that is in us, seeks continually to overcome the death that is in and around us. If we pray every day, read our Bible, gather with fervent disciples as we have opportunity, give of our means, are ready to minister and be ministered to, obey the Lord to the best of our ability, and keep the commandments found in the Bible, the eternal life grows in us. The flesh and blood of Jesus Christ are continually given to us in the spirit realm.
But if we do not pray every day, read our Bible, gather with fervent disciples if we have opportunity, give of our means, minister and are ministered to, obey the Lord top the best of our ability, and keep the commandments found in the Bible, then it will not be long before eternal death is growing in us.
We will not be able to notice the difference immediately. But just as a tree can be dying for a period of time before it is evident, so it is true that we do not notice that our spiritual life is dying. This especially is true if we are busily engaged in the activities of this life, buying, selling, building, planting, marrying, giving in marriage, and so forth. The Lord Jesus warned us clearly about the danger of being involved in the ordinary activities of the world and not being aware of disaster that is approaching.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so you may know you have eternal life. (I John 5:13)
We understand beyond doubt that Johnís various exhortations and warnings concerning keeping Godís commandments, and abiding in love, are addressed to "you who believe in the name of the Son of God," not to the unsaved.
If we keep Godís commandments and abide in love, then we know we have eternal life. But if we do not keep Godís commandments, permitting bitterness and unforgiveness to dwell in our heart, then we know we do not have eternal life.
There are multitudes of American Christians who profess faith in Jesus Christ and are waiting for an unscriptural "rapture." They "feel" that they are pleasing God and all is well with them spiritually.
But they are yielding to every work of the flesh, including bitterness, unforgiveness, jealousy, strife, backbiting, malice, criticism, gossip, slander, sexual lust, sometimes sexual perversion, and covetousness. Therefore we know beyond doubt that although they feel as though the blessing of God is on them and they are ready to be caught up to Heaven, the truth is they do not have eternal life and God is not pleased with them. They are living in delusion. They actually are facing a baptism with fire that they may be prepared for the coming of the Lord.
This is what the New Testament teaches. It is not safe to trust in how blessed the believer may feel or how many Christians believe we can be righteous apart from righteous behavior by professing to believe Jesus is the Son of God.
The wise believer, after reading First John, will go to the Lord and ask for a report card.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (I John 5:14)
I heard someone say not too long ago that when we are praying for the sick we should never say "Thy will be done." This person felt that saying "Thy will be done" shows a lack of faith.
This incident reveals a flaw in todayís Christian reasoning, particularly Pentecostal-Charismatic reasoning. The flaw is that we are to attempt to exert faith and accomplish our desires without necessarily knowing Godís will; or when we desire something it automatically becomes Godís will.
There has crept into our thinking an element of metaphysics, the idea of mind over matter. This idea seems to operate in the Christian Science religion. I have been told also that mind over matter characterizes some of the Eastern religions, although I do not know if this is true.
We have encountered this in "The Power of Positive Thinking," and also in the challenge to "speak the creative word." Certainly the "faith" and "prosperity" doctrines partake of the metaphysical approach.
Humanism is a force in Western thinking. The concept is that man is his own god. His rights and desires are to prevail over every other consideration. One can see how readily the idea that "we get what we say," or "we get what we image," would appeal to someone who wanted to be his or her own god.
My personal opinion is that this approach to "serving the Lord" will die down for a bit, and then be revived with power when it is time for the False Prophet to assist Antichrist.
From my point of view, the False Prophet comprises Christians who are seeking the power of Christ but who are not taking up their cross and patiently following the Lord. It is the power of Christ without the cross, without the patient waiting on Godís will.
There already are signs of Christians assisting Antichrist, as misled believers attempt to persuade political leaders to be "born again," but do not tell them they have to take up their cross and follow Jesus. They are not reasoning with the politicians, as the Apostle Paul did with Felix, of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.
Come to think of it, I have seen, in a Baptist milieu, an earlier form of the desire of man to make God his servant as the people have been encouraged to "go out and do great things for God."
I do not know where this spirit of presumption began. Perhaps it originated when Satan suggested to Jesus that He jump off the top of the Temple in order to prove Godís Word in the Book of Psalms.
Wherever the idea came from that we are supposed to use God to do our will, or to command the physical realm, or to otherwise seek to do Godís work according to our own understanding, it is time for all sincere Christian people to utterly denounce and renounce this spirit wherever it appears.
We are not here to convince God to do our will or fulfill our dreams. The idea is not to unlock our faith or to engage in any of the other practices rampant in Christian literature and thinking. How long will we permit the mind and will of man to predominate in our midst?
There is only one valid will in the universe. It is the will of God.
This being the case, it is incumbent on the sincere disciple to lay aside all of his own plans, ambitions, ideas, hopes, dreams, and everything else that would guide him, and concentrate on finding Godís will. He is not invited to "do great things for God." He has one purpose in life, which is to discover Godís will and to perform it rigorously, diligently, and completely at all times and in every circumstance.
Do we dare relax and let Christ build His Kingdom according to the wisdom God has given Him? Or are we going to add our own thoughts to what should be done?
If it is true that God has completed all things from the beginning of the world, and His Word is bringing all to pass, then why donít we enter Godís rest by throwing off every pressure, and concentrating on finding out what the Lord wants?
"If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us."
"But shouldnít we attempt to convince God to do what we want?"
"Shouldnít we Ďpush the envelope,í challenging God to act on our behalf?"
"Isnít God looking for someone who will dare to believe Him?"
"Shouldnít we poll all the Christians in the world to find out what they want, and then all of us join hands and agree in prayer?"
"Shouldnít we pray for someone to be healed without saying, ĎYour will be done,í because by saying this we are not exerting enough faith?"
"What if we just obey God, and then He doesnít do anything?"
"Shouldnít we go forth and do somethingóanythingóbecause Ďthe kingís business requires hasteí?"
"Shouldnít we Ďdare to be a Danielí and do great things for God?"
"If the devilís in the way, shouldnít we Ďrun right over himí?"
I realize Christ advised us to be persistent when praying. There is no problem with being persistent in prayer. This we are to do once we feel certain we know the Lordís will. But even then we always add, "Not my will but Yours be done."
As John said, God hears us if we ask according to His will.
What we are not to do is to try to force God to go our way, or to attempt to have faith in faith instead of faith in Christ. This is a metaphysical approach and it has no place in the Kingdom of God.
And if we know he hears usówhatever we askówe know we have what we asked of him. (I John 5:15)
I donít know if you are familiar with the term "praying through." People who have had experience in prayer know you can tell when you are "prayed through."
You might have had a heavy burden or were deeply concerned about something. You went to prayer and sought the Lord for a period of time.
All of a sudden there was no more prayer, only praise. Then you knew you had "prayed through."
I have never had the experience of praying through that the answer did not come. Once you are prayed through you know beyond doubt that the answer is on the way.
The answer may come immediately or in twenty years (usually not that long). Time is not the important factor.
"Should I pray for the same thing the next day if the answer has not come? Certainly! But once you pray through, when you come again to that prayer the next day you will find a lightness. It has been prayed through and the answer is on the way.
You can pray the same prayer as often as you like; but you will find yourself praising God. The fear has gone. The answer is on the way.
When we know God has heard us, then we know He has granted our request.
Sometimes people have not prayed enough to really break through like this. You ought to try it if you havenít already. Interacting with God in this manner makes your prayer time a delight, instead of a dull repeating of your list of requests.
Once you get "hooked" on prayer it will become the high point of your day.
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. We know anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. (I John 5:16-18)
"All wrongdoing is sin."
"Anyone born of God does not continue to sin"
Notice "the one who was born of God keeps him safe." I think a person could infer from this rendering that it is Christ who keeps the person safe. I donít believe this is what John meant. I would think John meant, from the tenor of his previous statements in this epistle, that the meaning is, "The one who was born of God keeps Himself." Also, I donít think the term "safe" is in the original Greek.
"We know anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps himself, and the evil one cannot harm him."
This makes more sense to me. Notice also:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)
Keep yourselves in Godís love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:21)
"To keep oneself."
I know Christ has to keep us if we are going to survive spiritually. But there is so much emphasis today on Christ doing it all for us, that I think we need to keep clear in our mind that the individual who is born of God does not continue to sin because he confesses his sin and turns away from it. He keeps himself from the evil one.
It may be noted that Berryís Interlinear Greek New Testament says "He that was begotten of God keeps himself." Youngís Literal Translation agrees with this.
From my point of view, "keeps himself" agrees completely with previous statements made by John.
We can pray for a brother who is stumbling, and God will restore him to eternal life.
"If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying he should pray about that."
I think John is saying merely that there are sins that do not lead to death and sins that do. I notice in Youngís Literal Translation of the Holy Bible that the indefinite article is missing, so the text should read "there is sin to death," not there is a sin that leads to death."
It is not, as John is speaking here, that he is referring to some special sin, such as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that leads to death. I think Johnís point is that when we are praying we can sense whether God is going to bring the person back to life, or whether God is telling us not to pray anymore. This happens at times.
We know we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (I John 5:19)
Satan is termed "the prince of the authority of the air." It appears there are thrones in the air that control much of what takes place on the earth We realize also that the earth belongs to the Lord, its peoples, and it resources. So there is only so much that Satan is able to do. As in the case of Job, Satan has to ask Christ for permission before he affects any of Godís servantsóperhaps before he affects anyone.
I believe I am correct in saying the history of the world is Godís way of proving to the angels and to people the folly of disobeying God. The world is one great lesson for us all.
The world began in a perfect Paradise. Two people went against Godís will. Today the earth is a charnel house of every form of viciousness. No longer is the world a Paradise. People take drugs and drink alcohol to escape from the world. The Christians speak of being "raptured" into the spirit Paradise so they can escape from the world.
I suppose Satan is positive that his way is best. It always is true of the wicked that they lack wisdom and cannot see what is in front of them.
Before the Lord returns, people will be crying "peace and safety." Yet it shall be as it is todayórelationships shall continue to be painful and destructive. People are oblivious to the chaos all around them, just as long as they are able to exercise their own will and possess their "rights."
The nations of the world are envious of America because of our material advantages. Yet our newspapers are filled with accounts of murder, rape, child molestation, and corporate fraud. People are suffering, but we are oblivious to it because the image of prosperity is before us. Young people are committing suicide; yet our culture is the envy of the world. We are living in the suburbs of Hell and do not realize it. From sea to bloody sea as millions of developing children are aborted.
If you and I could see what goes on behind closed doors we would walk away in unbelief. If we were aware of the sounds across the nation as people sit and watch the antics of Satan on the television, we would hear the mindless cackling, the drum beats of jungle rhythms, the screams of domestic violence. Yet we dream on in the stupor imposed on us by demons and also by those who profit from our "consumerism." The rich and powerful are using us, but they themselves are miserable.
"Behold, angels and humans, the result of going against My will. The anguish of the peoples of the earth has just begun. For the days are coming when the inhabitants of the earth will long to die, but death will elude them. Then those who loved the ways of Satan will stagger about in the twilight of the age, crippled by painful sores, cursing God for their misery, not able even to remember the peace and joy of the Garden before Satan persuaded the two children to disobey the Lord. They are determined to be the masters of their fate; the captains of their souls.
"My servants will sing and rejoice in the Presence of the Lamb and enjoy the delights that only God can provide. Never again will sin enter My creation, for My sons in whom I delight will govern with all necessary force. Never, never again will sin cause Me to curse the works of my hands. In My wisdom I have made an end of rebellion, that My children may enjoy My Presence and blessing for eternity."
We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is trueóeven in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (I John 5:20)
"In Him was light, and that light was the life of men." Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ there is no light, no truth, no understanding. It is true of the cultures of the world that we are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We notice in the oldest books of the Bible that people spoke in poetry, or so it appears. Our language today grows increasingly vulgar, characterized by slang and technical terms. It is tinny, frothy, lacking strength and dignity.
Notice the strength and dignity of the following:
You asked, "Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?" Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, "Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me." My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:3-6)
Place this profound response against the vulgar, cheap language and ideas that we read in the newspaper or hear in the contemporary music. How can we speak of evolution when the people of five thousand years ago were probing the Person of God in the above fashion? Why is there not more evidence that we are growing wiser and more intelligent? Instead our language, which is the evidence of our maturity as creatures, reflects our debased state.
The Lord Jesus Christ is Truth, and the only truth there is. Apart from Him we are blind. We dwell in darkness. When we open our heart to Him and He begins to be formed in us, our eyes slowly open. We see the world as the insane asylum that it is, as people rush to and fro in their mad scramble to acquire first the necessities, and then the luxuries, of our cursed world.
Then we withdraw from this insanity and look upward toward God and His world. We find peace, and we hope for the new world of righteousness that is coming to the earth. This hope saves us, enabling us to obey the Spirit of God in the midst of the jeers and scorn of the demons that surround us.
Out from this caldron of frantic fleshly activity will emerge spiritual giants, clothed in the robe of righteousness woven as they have steadfastly obeyed the Lord and turned away from evil. They shall take their places on the thrones in the air. Then shall nature break forth into singing, and the little children play safely with lion and the cobra. Nothing shall hurt or destroy in all the universe, because the sons of God will be governing from their mighty thrones.
Every relationship, circumstance, and thing will reflect the Person and Nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, and God in Him. Love, joy, and peace will prevail throughout.
There shall be a dark area of the world in which Satan and his followers will be confined. People shall be able to go there and see the results of rebellion against God.
God and Christ shall be in every person of the new world, in some to a hundredfold extent; some to a sixtyfold extent; and some to a thirtyfold extent. Eventually every individual will live by the Spirit of God rather than by his own will.
The victorious saints are living in this condition today as a firstfruits of the new world of righteousness that is to come.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)
This is the Kingdom of God that is coming to the earth. The atonement made by the Lord Jesus on the cross of calvary made such a redeemed world possible.
From my point of view, the Gospel of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth is superior to the gospel of going to Heaven when we die.
We were not created in Heaven but on the earth. The earth was perfect in the beginning. Sin entered, and the perfection of the earth and its people was defiled. However, God never quits. Have you noticed that? He finds a way to not only restore what He instituted but to bring forth the restored creation in a vastly improved form.
All who resist God serve only to accomplish Godís purposes, just as Satan accomplished Godís purpose by crucifying the Lord. Godís snake always swallows up the other snakes. Do Godís will from your heart, and your snake will swallow up the snakes that come against you.
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (I John 5:21)
When we begin as disciples of the Lord we have many idols. We do not recognize that we have idols, but we do. A great part of the program of redemption consists of putting our idols under our feet until we are governed only by the Lord Jesus Christ. The operation of removing idolatry from us will be as painful as we make it.
At one time classical music was an idol to me. I spent numerous hours practicing the piano. One day the Lord told me to stop playing. This I did and did not resume practicing for about two years. Actually I had no problem with turning away from classical music. Today I can play or not. Classical music is mine to enjoy, but it does not govern me.
On another occasion the Lord told me to go on a fast. I waited until I knew exactly how and when I was to do this. Then the Lord made it clear to me that I was to fast from reading books. This I did for a season. As I remember, there were spiritual pressures on me at that time, and worldly literature was weakening me, I suppose. I knew when the fast began and when it ended. Now I do a great deal of reading, but reading does not have mastery over me. I can read or not read as I please.
There have been other fervent desires that were not as easy to overcome. God worked in various ways to get at the root of my idolatry. Now I am free from these desiresófree to enjoy Godís will.
We can worship relationships, our children, money, violence, our physical condition, a talent, entertainment, partying, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, education, and our ministry.
How can we tell when something is an idol? When there is a burning desire, you can be quite sure an idol is involved. When we believe if God were to remove someone or something from us we would perish, then that is an idol.
John tells us to keep ourselves from idols. When God deals with us about someone or something, we give the person, thing, or circumstance to God. We do this as cheerfully as we can, knowing that if God wishes for us to have this person, thing, or circumstance, it will be restored to us. If He doesnít restore the idol to us, it is because it will not bring peace and joy to us. We must have this confidence in God. He deserves it.
I think difficult times are approaching in America. The wise person will place all persons, all things, and all circumstances on the altar of God. I mean by this, picture in your mind those persons, things, and circumstances that are so important to you, then one by one give them to God in prayer. Tell the Lord they all belong to Him and if he wants to remove any of them, even your own life or health, they are His for the asking.
Then when trouble comes, and your loved ones are killed or your property destroyed, you will not be rushing around in panic like the people of the world. Your treasures are in Heaven where they cannot possibly be harmed. All that is of true value to you will be restored, either in this life or in the next. As I said previously, anything that is not restored would harm you in some manner. Trust Godís faithfulness and goodness for this.
As John would say, "This is the true God and eternal life."
We have seen, then, that todayís Christian teaching is not entirely in line with the Book of First John.
Perhaps the most noticeable departure from John is our emphasis today on our "Statement of Faith." We would be far better off with a "List of Commandments to Righteous Behavior."
The stress on a belief system, on specialized knowledge, is much too close to Gnosticism for comfort. It is a belief system that does not always emphasize sufficiently an accompanying change in our behavior. Such an approach to Christian discipleship is not in harmony with Johnís writings.
Our goal is fellowship with God and Christ and with one another. Such fellowship is possible only as we walk in the Light of Godís Presence and will.
To claim we know God, but then not obey His commandments, makes us a liar. We cannot know God and yet not obey what He has said.
Godís commandments are found in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and sometimes are given to us personally as we walk with the Lord.
The primary issue of the Kingdom of God is that of obedience. It was disobedience that separated Adam and Eve from God in the first place. The first two people ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that is, of the eternal moral law of God. They then realized they were naked, and hid from God. Fellowship was broken. Access to Jesus Christ, to the Tree of Life, was denied.
The problem was not the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, because that tree must be eaten if we are to grow to spiritual maturity. We must understand the difference between good and evil, and have the willingness and strength to embrace the good and renounce the evil.
Adam and Eve did not have such wisdom, willingness, and strength, and so they were denied access to eternal life. We do not regain access to the Tree of Life until we begin to overcome sin.
But the actual problem was disobedience. If they had obeyed God they would be living happily on the earth to the present day, partaking continually of the flesh and blood of the Lamb of God, of the Tree of Life.
There is only one valid will in the universeóthe will of almighty God. Christ obeys that will. We are to obey that will. The angels are to obey that will. Whoever does the will of God lives forever in love, joy, and peace. Whoever chooses his own will over the will of God, as Satan did, brings destruction upon himself and those around him.
We Christians have been saved and filled with Godís Spirit. Now we have to consent to do the will of God. Until we do, we are part of the problem in the universe, not of the solution. Dying does not solve the problem of our will. Only our choosing to do Godís will solves the problem. The sooner we choose to obey God strictly, the sooner we will enter eternal joy.
John teaches us to confess our sins and thus receive forgiveness and cleansing.
John teaches us the importance of love. We cannot love with Divine love until we are doing Godís perfect will from our heart. Love without integrity is worthless.
John tells us that as long as we are continuing in sin we are not of the truth.
John tells us that Christ in us is Truth, and that Truth will overcome the spirit of Antichrist that is in the world.
In everything the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted. As we are born of Him we overcome the evil that is in the world and dwell in the Love of God. Then we are of the Light and have fellowship with all who love God, with the Father, and with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.