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Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21

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Well today, we finish our study of 1 John. We have actually been studying this letter for almost exactly two years; we started on September 12, in 2021. Now, I have preached other messages and series since we started this book, but I'm told that I preached a total of 58 sermons specifically on this letter. And according to one statistically minded member of our staff, I have covered an average of 1.81 verses per sermon. So, it's appropriate that my last sermon on this book will cover the last two verses; I'm going to actually beat my average by 0.19. So, let's read it together, 1 John, chapter 5, the last paragraph beginning in verse 16.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make requests for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

Now, this last paragraph of John's letter, at first glance, doesn't appear to have an immediate unifying theme, but I'm convinced that it does. And I put it sort of in these terms, all false forms of the Christian faith are idolatry; they originate with Satan, and they lead to eternal death just as truly as pagan religion does. The truth that brings eternal life was revealed through God's Son Jesus Christ, and that is the truth which every true Christian embraces and believes.

This closing paragraph really contrasts real Christianity with the fakes, the frauds produced by Satan. And specifically, we learn here, two key insights into real Christianity versus the fakes, the deepfakes created by Satan. The first insight concerns “Praying for False Christians,” that is those who claim to know Christ, but in fact, are not believers because they are caught up either in false teaching, or they understand the truth of the true Christian faith, but they've made a false profession of that faith. That's really the message of verses 16 and 17, the “…sin not leading to death,” are false believers who are caught up in that, and we need to pray for them. And probably the “…sin leading to death,” that which we're told not necessarily to pray for, has to do with the false teachers who lead them astray. Again, you can go back and listen if you're curious about that, but that's the message of verses 16 and 17.

Now, the rest of this paragraph then provides a second key insight into real Christianity versus the false created by Satan, and it concerns “Distinguishing Real Christians from False Christians,” distinguishing real Christians from false Christians. This is the message of verses 18 to 21. These verses, as I noted last week, are all about what all Christians know. Notice verse 18, “We know;” verse 19, “We know;” and verse 20, “And we know.” These are three Christian certainties; every Christian knows these truths and these truths help us distinguish real Christians from false Christians. Here's how to distinguish the real from the deepfake. It's by these three timeless truths that every Christian has come to know.

First of all, “Real Christians have a New Relationship with Sin.” That's the message of verse 18, “We know that no one who is born of God (Who's experienced the new birth.) sins (keeps on sinning.) but He who was born of God (That's the Son of God, the One and only begotten Son of God.) keeps him, (the believer, protects the believer) and (therefore) the evil one does not touch him,” meaning touch him to harm him or to destroy him. Real Christians have a new relationship to sin, and that is preserved by the personal work of Jesus Christ, including His intercession.

Secondly, “Real Christians Have a New Father and Family.” Verse 19, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” He says, “We (That is we who have believed in Jesus, “We.”) are of God.” We used to have Satan as our father, as the rest of the world does, the second half of the verse, but now we have God as our Father, “We are of God,” and it's “We.” So, we love God, and we love His people. We have a new Father, and because of that, we also have a new family. The “We” of verse 19.

Today, thirdly, we discover there's another fact about real Christians that help us distinguish the real from the false, and it's this, “Real Christians Have a New Saving Understanding of the True God,” real Christians have a new saving understanding of the true God. That's the message of verses 20 and 21. Now, I added the word ‘saving,’ because it's not just knowledge, it's just not understanding, it is the kind of understanding that leads to true salvation, that really is what we're talking about here. We have a new saving understanding of the true God. Let's look at this new understanding.

First of all, where does it come from? So, let's begin by looking at “Its Source.” This new understanding of the true God that we have, verse 20 says, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding.” “We know (This is a universal Christian certainty.) that the Son of God (The Eternal Second Person of the Trinity, that He,) has come.” It's an interesting verb that John uses. The Greeks used it in secular Greek to refer ‘to the appearance of one of their gods.’ So John borrows that very word, and he says, “Listen, in the incarnation, the real God in the person of His Son has come.” This is the fundamental message of the Christian faith, the incarnation of the Son of God.

Go back to 1 John, chapter 1, and verse 1, this is how he began:

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life–and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, (He's talking about a person here; the eternal life.) which was with the Father, and was manifested to us–what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, (And here's the person.) and with His Son Jesus Christ (The Messiah).

This is the fundamental message of the Christian faith, “the eternal Son of God has come.” Chapter 4, verse 2 says that true believers as opposed to those who are connected to antichrist, the spirit of antichrist, say “…that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”

Now look at our text again, verse 20, “…the son of God has come, (in the Incarnation) and has given us (And the perfect tense of the Greek verb means that He gave us at a point in the past, and it's a gift that keeps on giving. It's a continuing gift. “He has given us,” what?) understanding.” ‘Understanding’ here is a comprehensive word, and it really refers ‘to the power or the capacity to discern what is reality,’ the capacity or power to discern true reality.

You see, before we came to Christ, before we were believers, we didn't understand and for us to be saved, we first had to be able to understand, this was our fundamental problem. Jesus describes it this way in John, chapter 8, verse 43, He says, “Why do you not understand what I am saying?” You ever have that question as you share the truth with unbelievers? How could you not get this? How could you not understand this? Jesus, “Why do you not understand what I am saying?” Here it is–it is because you cannot hear My word. He uses the Greek word ‘dunamai,’ which means, ‘You don't have the power, you don't have the capacity to hear My word.’ Why? John 8:46 and 47, “…If I speak the truth, why do you not believe me?” There's another great question, right? I mean, why don't unbelievers believe the truth of the gospel? Jesus says it Himself, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

See, our problem was that fundamental; we lacked the capacity to understand. That's why in Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 17 and 18, Paul describes the Gentiles, unbelievers, they “…walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding.” It's like, their understanding is pitch black, they don't get it. He goes on to say, “…excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, (And then here's the root reason.) because of the hardness of their heart.” It’s like Romans 1, you know, knowing that God is, and that He exists and knowing certain things about Him, His power, His eternal nature…” (Paraphrase.) It's like, “Nope, don't want that because that intrudes into my life.” It’s a hard heart that leads to that darkened understanding.

But here's the beauty of the Gospel; through what Jesus taught and accomplished in the Incarnation, as believers, we now have that understanding. The source of our saving understanding of the gospel is God's incarnate Son. But how does He give us this understanding?

It's important to understand that He gives us and others, saving understanding of the truth of the gospel in two ways. First of all, “Through His Word,” through His Word, that is through revelation. In other words, you have to know the truth, and He gives us that truth through the Word. This is what Jesus was all about. Let me break this down a little bit for you. Let's think about when Jesus was here during the Incarnation. He came and He's given us understanding, in part through His Word, first of all, “By explaining God's previous revelation.” When He was here, this was important, crucial to Jesus; He repeatedly affirmed the Hebrew Old Testament to be the very words of God. In Matthew, chapter 5, I’ve written a little book on it, in which we see Jesus’ view of Scripture, and Jesus says, in that passage, “not a single Hebrew letter, not a single stroke of a letter, will pass away till all is fulfilled.” (Paraphrase.) Jesus said it's the Word of God, what we call the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, don't miss this, His primary ministry during those three-and-a-half years before His death, His primary ministry, during those years, was preaching or explaining the Old Testament revelation.

In fact, in Mark, chapter 1, verses 37 and 38, there's an interesting interchange. It was the night of the of the Sabbath, and after the Sabbath was done at sunset, the entire city of Capernaum shows up at His (Jesus’) doorstep, and He's healing into the night. And then He gets up early the next morning, goes off to pray, and His disciples come to find Him, and they say, “Jesus, you have to come with us, the crowd’s back, this is really a big thing, this is happening, let's go, you need to do this again.” (Paraphrase.) And Jesus says, “Nope, not doing that. We're going to go to other towns because I need to preach for this purpose I came, to preach.” (Paraphrase.) That's the focus of His ministry. Every Sabbath, He taught the Old Testament in the synagogues. That's what you see in Luke 4, when he returned to His hometown in Nazareth. They gave Him the scroll of the prophet, Isaiah. And what did he do? He read the text. He explained the text. He applied the text! Jesus was an expository preacher. He explained the Old Testament. Let me show you an example.

Turn to Luke 24, verse 44, this is after the resurrection. Luke 24:44:

He said to them, (His Disciples) “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (That's the Hebrew Old Testament.) must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ (Messiah) would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Jesus says, “I'm here to help you understand the Scriptures.” So, He gave us understanding through the Word by “Explaining God's previous revelation.”

He also has given us understanding “By bringing God's new revelation.” You see, we talk about Jesus’ offices; He was a Prophet, Priest, and King. John, chapter 12, verse 49 says, “…I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.” He brought new revelation, John 17, 7 and 8, as He prays to the Father, He says, “…they (My disciples) have come to know that everything You have given Me Father is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them.”

Thirdly, Jesus has given us understanding “By authorizing the New Testament revelation,” by authorizing the New Testament revelation. You see, Jesus handpicked His Apostles, Mark 3, for example, He called all His Disciples to Him and said, “Okay, you Twelve are My Apostles,” and then He gave them, designated them His official legal representatives. That's the technical meaning of the word ‘Apostles’ in most of his New Testament occurrences. He sent them on His behalf to represent Him.

You say, “How does that work? What does that look like?” Well, do you live in a home that has an HOA, that has a Home-Owner's Association? Many of us do; I do. And, there is an annual meeting of the Home-Owners Association; all the homeowners come together. Sometime before that meeting, I get an email or a letter that explains that if I can't attend the meeting, then I can appoint a proxy, a legal representative who can speak and vote on my behalf. And once I sign my signature and I designate that person as a proxy, that person can attend the meeting, and they can act with the same legal authority as if I were attending the meeting. They can speak for me, and what they say is what I wanted to say, and they can vote for me, they are my proxy.

Well, the Apostles were proxies for Jesus, His legal, officially-appointed representatives. There so many examples in the New Testament, in fact, I can't even begin to point out all the ones in my notes, but let me give you a couple of examples. John 15, verse 27, Jesus says to them, “You will testify also because you have been with Me from the beginning.” He says, “You are going to be my representatives and testify for Me.” (Summary Paraphrase.) In Acts, chapter 1, verse 8, you know, “You're to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come, and then (What?) you will receive power, and you will be My witnesses.” (Summary Paraphrase.) And while it's all of us, have that responsibility, He's talking to the Apostles, He's giving them specifically that assignment.

Again, there are a lot of passages but look at Acts 10, because here Peter is so clear, Acts, chapter 10, he's talking to Cornelius and those who gathered in Cornelius’ house, the first Gentile convert there on the coast of the Mediterranean. And he says to him, look at Verse 39, he says:

We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. (Now watch verse 42.) And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as a Judge of the living and the dead.

He ordered us to represent Him. So, Jesus assigned His Apostles, His legal proxies, the responsibility then to write the New Testament on His behalf.

In the Upper Room Discourse in John 14, He says, and John 16, He says to them, “Listen, the Spirit, I'm going to send the Spirit, the Spirit is going to remind you of all the things I've taught you, and He’s going to teach you new things that I didn't have time to teach you.” (Paraphrase.) To what end? So that they could then represent Him in writing the New Testament. Jesus says this in the Upper Room Discourse in John 17, verse 20, He's praying, and He prays, “Father, I'm not just praying for the Eleven; instead, I'm praying for all of those who will believe in me through their word as My representatives.” (Paraphrase.) That's us, that's those who have come to believe in Him through His legal proxies, their word, His Word. The Apostles understood that they wrote with this authority.

Look at 1 John, chapter 1, verse 2. He says, “…we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us…”. And oh, by the way, you better listen, chapter 4, verse 6, “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” So, the Apostles understood they spoke with authority.

The Apostle Paul, in Colossians, chapter 4, verse 16, he says, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.” 1 Thessalonians 5:27, “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.” In 1 Timothy, chapter 5, verse 18, Paul writes, “…the Scripture says,” and then he quotes from Deuteronomy, and he quotes from Luke, “…the Scripture says;” he understood the authority with which they wrote! In 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 16, Peter refers to Paul's letters, and the rest of the Scriptures; “Christ has come and has given us understanding through His word.” (Paraphrase.)

But there's a second really important part to His giving a saving, understanding, because you can have the Bible, and it's a dead book to you. So secondly, he has given us understanding “Through His Spirit,” through His Spirit. First of all, “By giving us spiritual life–that is regeneration” You see, remember, when we were dead, we didn't have understanding; our understanding was darkened, we cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God. Let me show you this. Go to 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, verse 14, here's the reminder of why there has to be regeneration.

But a natural man (That is a person who hasn't been born again, a person who's like they were when they were born into the world, hasn't been changed, “A natural man,”) does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he (Here’s our word again. “He.”) cannot (He lacks the power, the capacity to.) understand them, because they are (spiritually discerned) spiritually appraised.

So, the problem is that until the new birth, we cannot understand in a saving way. And so, what has to happen is the new birth has to come, where God the Holy Spirit regenerates us, gives us life. Now, we can understand.

And in that process, He not only regenerates us, but secondly, not only to give us spiritual life, but through His Spirit, “He gives us spiritual insight, which is illumination.” Now that we have the Spirit, now that we've been born again, verse 15, “But he who is spiritual;” it doesn't mean, you know, like you're hyper spiritual and the Christian next to you isn't, that's not it. He's talking about in contrast to the natural. In other words, if you have been born again, if you have the Holy Spirit, you are spiritual in this sense. So, every believer, we could say, appraises or understands all the things given to us in the Scripture. And in the Scripture, verse 16, “We have the mind of Christ.” In this Book you hold in your hand, we have the very thoughts of Jesus Himself. So, “The Source” of our saving understanding of God is from God's incarnate Son, through His Word, and through His Spirit.

Now, John explains a second fact about the saving understanding that we received not only “Its Source,” but secondly, “Its Result,” its result, and there are two of them. First of all, “We know the true God.” Verse 20, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true.” He's not saying this is hypothetical if you're a Christian; he's saying, “No, if you're a Christian, this is a reality.”

Now John identifies God here, notice, as the one who is “true.” In this context, verse 21, “idols,” “true” here doesn't mean ‘truthful,’ but it means ‘genuine, authentic, real.’ Jesus taught us about the real God as opposed to the world full of false gods and idols. This is what Jesus did; He constantly affirmed that the God of the Hebrew Scripture, Yahweh, is in fact, the one true God. He does it repeatedly, affirms the ‘Shema’ from Deuteronomy 6, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD (Yahweh) our God is…one!” And Jesus says, “Yes, absolutely, that's true!” He affirmed that.

And to make it possible for us to know this real God, Jesus also gave us understanding of Himself. He explained that He is God's incarnate Son, and His Apostles got that. Verse 20, “…His Son Jesus Christ (The Messiah).” He also taught us about His redemptive work. We've seen this before, but look at chapter 4, verse 9, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. (We might have spiritual life.)” Verse 10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the satisfaction of His wrath) for (against) our sins.” This was the mission; He came. Jesus has given us understanding of the true God, of Himself. Why? Verse 20 says, “…so that we may know Him who is true…”

Christian, do you understand that God's chief objective, His final objective in saving you, apart from His own glory, which is the ultimate objective of everything, but in terms of you, the reason He saved you wasn't just so you would have forgiveness. That's a means to an end. And the end is that you would “know Him,” that you would “know him, know the true God, know your Creator.”

You see, Jesus did more than identify the true God, or teach us certain facts about Him. At its heart, the gospel is what makes it possible for us who are God's enemies to have a relationship with Him. Believer, you have a genuine relationship with God, the true God Who created all things, and not just a relationship with Him as Creator, and not just a relationship with Him as the rest of the world does is their ultimate Judge. No! Your relationship with God is now Father, you are His son, you are His daughter!

John 17, verses 2 and 3, here's the heart of the Christian faith, here's the heart of the gospel, John 17, 2 and 3, as Jesus is praying, He says this, “(Father,) You gave Him (The Son) authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life,” as a gift of His grace. And listen to this, “This is eternal life.” You want to know what eternal life is, you want to know what you were saved to? Here it is, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

You, as a fallen human being, if you've repented and believed in Jesus, you have a personal relationship with God the Creator, a relationship described as Father and child. In the Gospel, Jesus explained the only way that sinners, alienated by their sin and rebellion against God their Creator, can be reconciled to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:19-21, that passage there talks about the fact “…that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the the word of (the message of) reconciliation…be reconciled to God.” And how can that happen? Second Corinthians 5:21, “He (God) made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” That's how we can be reconciled to Him and have a relationship with Him, know Him. Because the Son of God has given us understanding, we have a personal relationship with the one true God.

There's a second result of this new understanding, and it's that “We are in the true God.” Verse 20, “…we are in Him who is true.” As we've learned throughout this letter, we are “in Him” in two senses. First of all, “We are united to Him and share His life.” It's amazing! We just read it a moment ago from Ephesians 4:18, talking about unbelievers; it says they are “…excluded from the life of God.” Guess what that means for us, believers. We are included in the life of God Himself.

But also, there's another sense of this; “We have continuing fellowship with Him.” Look back at chapter 1, verse 3, “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship (collectively) is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” John adds in verse 20, “…in His Son, Jesus Christ.” Now, some understand that phrase and the previous one to be essentially equivalent, both referring to the Son. More likely, the first phrase describes the believer’s relationship with the Father, “We are in Him (the Father) who is true. And the second phrase is the basis of our relationship with the Father; it's because we are “in His Son.” We have a continuing relationship with the Father solely because we have a continuing relationship with His Son. Verse 11 of chapter 5, “…God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” To know God and to have a continuing fellowship with Him is only possible through the appointed Mediator. 1 Timothy 2:5, “…there is one God, and one mediator…between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Listen, if you're here this morning, and you don't know, you don't have a personal relationship with God your Creator, there's only one way that happens. And that's through the mediator that He appointed. There's only one way you can be reconciled to your Creator in spite of your sin and rebellion and that's by accepting the work of the Mediator, the One who, the only One who can bring you to God, by repenting of your sin and putting your trust in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, His eternal Son, who became flesh and who died for our sins. “We know Him who is true” only because “the Son of God has come and given us understanding…and we are in Him who is true only because we are in His Son Jesus.” (Paraphrase.)

Notice the complete way that God's Son is described here for the third time in this letter, “His Son Jesus Christ.” The human person, Jesus of Nazareth, is God's eternal Son incarnate, come in the flesh, and He's the divine Messiah promised in the Old Testament. The result of this understanding we've received from Him is that we know the true God, and we are in the true God, we are united to Him and share His life, and we have continuing fellowship with Him.

That brings us to a third fact about our new understanding, and that is “Its Exclusivity,” its exclusivity. We've seen “Its Source” and “Its Results.” Now notice “Its Exclusivity,” verse 20, “…This is the true God and eternal life.” Since the early church, scholars have argued about this expression because the demonstrative pronoun “This” is open to some measure of interpretation; it's a bit ambiguous. What does “this” refer to? Well, it could be referring to the Father, so it could mean ‘The Father whom Jesus explained to us,’ “This is the true God and eternal life.” Those who hold this view argue that earlier in the same verse, John refers to the Father as the true God, so, it's likely that's its meaning here. And they say also, John uses the same expression in John 17:3 of the Father. So, it could be “The Father,” ‘this’ meaning the Father.

“This” could be referring to “Jesus,” in which case it would read like this, “Jesus is the true God and eternal life.” Those who hold this interpretation argue that the nearest antecedent for that pronoun is Jesus Christ, it comes right before it. And as we saw a moment ago, back in chapter 1, verse 2, Jesus is called “eternal life,” so it could be the Father, could be Jesus.

There's a third option and that is it could be God generally, which would include both the Father and the Son. I think that's where John is going here. So, we'd read it like this, “The God of Scripture, the Father whose eternal Son came into the world as the God-Man to die for sin, that God (this God) is the real God, and genuine eternal life is found only in Him.” So, John likely meant, I think, “This,” that is the God Jesus gave us understanding about, “This is the true God and eternal life,” and that eternal life is found only in Him, in the Son of the Father. This is what Jesus said in other places, right? John 14:6, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one (man) comes to the Father but through (by) Me.” John 17:3,”This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Acts 4:12, “…there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

The message of the Christian faith, don't miss it; Jesus taught us that the Christian faith is exclusive. Christian, don't be influenced by our postmodern culture, to think that there might be other ways, there might be other gods, there might be other paths. Don't be ashamed of Jesus’ exclusive claims–there is only one real God in the universe. It's the God of the Bible, whose personal name is Yahweh, and whom Jesus taught us to know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That's the only God! The gods are the nations are idols. And there's only one way to that real, true, living God and that is through His eternal Son made flesh, Jesus Christ, and through His work, His life, death, and resurrection. It’s exclusive, this understanding!

A fourth fact about the real Christian saving understanding is “Its Enemy,” its enemy. John concludes his letter by referring again, notice in verse 21, to his readers, with his favorite term of tender affection, “Little children.” And then he ends with a surprising command, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” The verb ‘guard’ is used in the New Testament of guarding a flock of sheep, guarding a deposit or a family treasure, and of guarding a prisoner.

It's interesting because back in verse 18, we're told that our Lord guards us, “He keeps us,” He protects us. But here, He commands us to guard ourselves, literally, “guard ourselves (And this is how the Greek text reads.) from the idols,” guard yourselves from the idols.

What does John mean? In Scripture, there are three primary types of idols. There are idols of the heart, Ezekiel 14:4. There are gods of the false religion, 1 Thessalonians 1:9 says, “…we… turned to God from idols.” And then, there are also distorted versions of the true God; these too are idols. That's why you have the Second Commandment, right? The first commandment is (What?) “Don't have any other gods.” The Second Commandment is “Don't make an idol of the true God,” because what you've just made, isn't Him, and it's now an idol; it's a false god that you've made even if you think it's the real one. You see, worshipping your own conception of God and not the true living God of Scripture is idolatry. So, John says, “Guard yourselves from idols.”

Which idols is he talking about? Well, he's writing to Christians in Ephesus and other cities in Asia Minor, so it's possible he meant pagan idols because they were surrounded with them. But that's not likely because there's not a hint in this letter that these believers were tempted to return to pagan idolatry. It's more likely that John meant, “Guard yourself from the idolatrous form of the Christian God created by the false teachers.” John Stott writes:

Their false view of the Son, and therefore of the Father, constituted a monstrous idolatry. What is certain is that all God-substitutes, all alternatives to the true God Who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ are properly idols.

You see, humanly manufactured conceptions of Christ or of God are in the same category as pagan gods, they’re idolatry just the same. Jesus alone has taught us of the true God and eternal life.

Christian, listen, don't you dare listen to anyone who teaches anything else about God, about Jesus, about the gospel, about the Scripture than Jesus has taught us in His Word. Don't be deceived. Jesus has taught us about the true God. He's taught us about the true eternal life, the only way to Him. Cling to the biblical Jesus and His saving gospel, guard your mind from idolatry, including idolatrous forms of the Christian faith from those who teach a different kind of Christian God, or a different kind of Christian Jesus, or who teach a different kind of Christian Gospel, either legalism, where they add works as a cause of salvation like the Roman Catholic Church does, or license where it doesn't matter how you live, you just get in and then God wants you happy, wealthy, and wise, like the prosperity gospel teaches; be on guard against that; it's idolatry! Guard yourself from all idolatrous forms of the Christian faith, and they are all around us. Jackman writes in his commentary:

Whether it is the demythologized god of radical theology shorn of the supernatural power, or (Listen to this.), or the pocket-sized god of evangelical overfamiliarity deprived of His Majesty, the danger is the same. What we have is not God. It is an idol of our own making, a thinly veiled excuse for worshiping ourselves.

Now, look at our text again. What's interesting is in verses 18 to 21, John reminds us one last time of the three tests of eternal life that we've seen throughout this letter. First of all, “Obedience to Christ and His Word.” Look at verse 18, “We know that no one who is born of God sins.” “Love for God and His people,” look at verse 19, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” We have a new relationship to God as Father, and therefore a new relationship to other Christians; they're our family. So, we love God, and we love His people. And then in the text we just examined, verses 20 and 21, we see the third test, “Faith in the biblical Jesus and His gospel.” Those are the tests.

So, what are the lessons in the texts we've looked at today? They are the same overarching lessons found in the entire letter. Let me just give them to you. Lesson number one, this letter is “A call for repentance and faith, if you don't claim to be a follower of Jesus.” You need to repent of your sins and believe in Him because He's the only way to God. He's the only way you will ever know your Creator. It's the only way you'll be forgiven. It's the only way that you can be reconciled to the God you have so horribly sinned against.

Secondly, it's “A call for self-examination, if you claim to be a follower of Christ.” Take the three tests. Take the tests.

And then thirdly, it's “A call for assurance, if you take the tests and you pass them.” Look again at chapter 5, verse 13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for our time together this morning, and thank You for the two years we've spent working our way through this letter, for all that we've learned. Lord, cement these things in our souls, drive them deep within our hearts, Lord, and may we embrace them, understand them, live in light of them.

Lord, I pray for those who are here this morning who don't know You. I pray that You would save them that You would help them to see they can know You, their Creator, they can have a personal relationship with You if they will simply turn away from their rebellion and put their trust in Your Son, in His life, death, and resurrection. Lord, may that be true even today.

Lord for the rest of us who claim to know Him, help us to take these tests, and Father, for those who fail, help them to cry out for real change, for the new birth, for real salvation. Father, for those who take these tests and pass, Lord, may we have and experience ever-growing assurance that we truly belong to You. We know that’s Your heart, that’s why You gave us this letter; may it be true in our lives, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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56.

Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21
Current
57.

Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21

More from this Series

1 John

1.

An Introduction to 1 John

Tom Pennington 1 John
2.

The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:1-4
3.

The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:1-4
4.

The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:1-4
5.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
6.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
7.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
8.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
9.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
10.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
11.

The Priority of Love

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:7-8
12.

Loving One Another - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:9-11
13.

Loving One Another - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:9-11
14.

A Child of the Father

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:12-14
15.

Do Not Love the World

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:15-17
16.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
17.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
18.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
19.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
20.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
21.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
22.

The Christian's DNA - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
23.

The Christian's DNA - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
24.

The Christian's DNA - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
25.

The Christian's DNA - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
26.

The Christian's DNA - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
27.

Oil & Water

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:4-6
28.

Researching Your Spiritual Ancestry - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:7-10
29.

Researching Your Spiritual Ancestry - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:7-10
30.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
31.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
32.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
33.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
34.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
35.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
36.

Love As a Sign of Life - Part 7

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
37.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
38.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
39.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
40.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
41.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
42.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
43.

This Is Love - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
44.

This Is Love - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
45.

This Is Love - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
46.

This Is Love - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
47.

This Is Love - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
48.

The Nature of Saving Faith

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
49.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
50.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
51.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
52.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
53.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
54.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 7

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-15
55.

Real Christians & Deepfakes - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21
56.

Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21
57.

Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21
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