Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim. Today we are continuing our study of 1 John, a book written during a time when false teachers were trying to lead God’s people astray. And so one of John’s chief purposes in writing this epistle to the Church in Ephesus he was overseeing was to place the Church on guard against these false teachers and give them means by which they could know who was a true believer and who was not a true follower of Christ; and these were tests they could also apply to themselves in order that they might know and have assurance of their salvation.
France 1943-- Recently I read of [A crowd of men, women, and children huddled together at the train station. Dressed for a long journey and standing with their bags at their sides, they spoke in low tones. Armed men in the grim uniform of the SS, the feared wing of the Nazi army, surrounded the travelers. The people shivering on the platform were not criminals. They were Jews, French Jews who had been hauled from their homes by the occupying soldiers and French Nazi sympathizers. The non-Jewish French watched these events unfold with increasing concern. After all, these people were neighbors and friends. The group included the watchmaker and his family, the lad who sold newspapers, the old lady who made beautiful quilts. Now they were being “relocated.” The plumes of smoke could be seen even before the train was heard. The townspeople cast a nervous eye toward the train platform as the black, soot-belching locomotive ground to a halt. Armed guards herded the Jews into the train cars. They went cooperatively, putting up no resistance. Concerned observers wondered why this was taking place; but they told themselves that things would be fine, that there was no need to worry about these friends and neighbors. They were in good hands. How could they believe that? Because neatly printed in French on the door of every boxcar was the reassuring logo “Charitable Transport Company.”]
False Doctrine Leads to Death-- False doctrine is a lot like those boxcars; they have the appearance of being okay; of being true; of being safe; but in reality they lead to death. And both Paul and John say (as do many of the Biblical writers) that the source of these false teachings lies in the realm of the demonic. And the reason they say it is because Jesus said it. Jesus had said of Satan all the way back in…
John 8:44b (NKJV)-- …He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
Now many of you listening today may have grown up in Christian households. I certainly did. And I praise God for that. And for those of you who did, you were likely raised with Christian principles; you went to Church and at least knew (though may not always followed) the basic teachings of scripture. And that connection you had with Christ at that early age and the Biblical value system in your home was a single thread in a much larger tapestry that was Christianity in our nation. The principles of God’s Word used to be the backbone on which the skeleton of our nation hung. Everything we did; every law we made; every policy written, was done so under that umbrella of the authority of God’s Word. Our nation was established a Christian nation. Children were raised within that value system. And whether or not you went to Church, the effects of that value system was prevalent in that society. Truth was absolute truth because we knew it to be God’s truth. And I would like to point out that our nation was never more strong than when it was most Christian.
But as our nation grew and developed, especially over the past century, it has begun to reinterpret or redefine itself. It has allowed itself to become open to different ideas. Tolerance of other religions has been reinterpreted to mean that as a nation we cannot say that any religion is more true than another; which is not the definition of tolerance, which simply means respectfully treating someone you do not agree with. And the media and every source of input into our lives is pushing this false definition of tolerance down our throats. And all the while our nation has steadily drifted away from the One who established it and whom our fathers knew to be the one and only; true; living God upon which we must base not only our lives, but our society, our public policies; our Laws.
We have gotten to the point now where we have become so pluralistic; so “tolerant” that it has become politically incorrect to call ourselves a Christian nation. I remember watching one of our former president’s older speeches in which he mocked the Bible and those who believe it ought to serve as the basis for which we establish our laws and policies. He made the argument that because we would have to equally cater to every other religion, we have to (in a sense) make laws not based on any religion at all. And therefore any law that is connected with a religious value system is deemed “intolerant”. You cannot make laws that protect the definition of marriage because to do so would be to invoke a particular worldview.
Now Christians are called to be loving; we are called to hate the sin but love the sinner. That is tolerance; indeed tolerance is a Christian virtue. But we cannot be tolerant of other religions in the same way the world is defining tolerance; or else the Church will lose its identity the same way our nation is losing its identity. In order for our country to make the turnaround, first Churches must once again return to the Bible as the absolute ground for all truth; because in it Truth is revealed. And that Truth is not an “it”, but a “He”. Jesus reveals Himself as the source and definition of all Truth. He says in John 14:6 (ESV): “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me….”
Therefore any law; any policy that wishes to be based on truth must (by definition) be based on Jesus. This is why the writers of the New Testament and the early Church fathers were so adamant about warning people to beware of false doctrines. They were encouraged to test those doctrines by the Word of God.
Danger Within-- Now we often think of persecution as the enemy of Christianity. And while that is true to some extent, often in Church history (and particularly here in the Ephesian Church), the danger was not persecution from the outside, but being seduced and led astray by those inside. And Jesus had warned of this all the way back in:
Matthew 24:24-25 (ESV)-- 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. [And the apostle Paul had said specifically to the Ephesian elders in:]
Acts 20:29-30 (ESV)-- 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Watered Down Gospel-- The problem with the Ephesian church was not that they were being attacked or destroyed, but rather that they were being changed; that people were trying to improve upon Christianity and make it more compatible with the popular philosophy of the day. And this is what many Christians try to do even today; they try to make Christianity more palatable by either softening it or by only preaching and teaching the parts of it that feel good or can fit well into a motivational speech; not those parts that might offend and convict others of their sin so that they might turn and be healed by Jesus Christ.
The Content of Belief— [The content of belief is important: Jonathan Whitfield was preaching to coal miners in England. He asked one man, "What do you believe?"
"Well, I believe the same as the church."
"And what does the church believe?"
"Well, they believe the same as me." Seeing he was getting nowhere, Whitfield said, "And what is it that you both believe?"
"Well, I suppose the same thing.”]
Now that guy was heading for trouble. If we don’t have a hold on strong Biblical teaching, we can be led astray by false popular philosophies; of which there are many.
Gnosticism-- Now the popular philosophy of John’s day became what we know as Gnosticism. And though there are different forms of Gnosticism, what Gnosticism basically taught was that all matter is evil; everything physical was bad. The spirit and spiritual things were good. The spirit is trapped in an evil material world and in an evil material body. The Gnostics therefore despised the body. And this made the doctrine of the incarnation repugnant to them; the idea that God would take on human flesh and become a man? They rejected it because it didn’t fit their philosophy. And they claimed to have special gnosis (secret knowledge of what Jesus’ real theology was that was hidden to all others save those who were in Jesus’ inner circle); hence Gnosticism. Now why then would the ministry of John be so important? Because he was a part of Jesus’ inner circle. He could do a lot to hold this heresy in check because He was an eyewitness to what Jesus really taught. Now we can get a little bit of a glimpse into why verses 1-4 of chapter 1 are so important.
1 John 1:1-4 (ESV) The Word of Life-- 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
John wanted to emphasize that his teaching is trustworthy because he was there and had seen and experienced Jesus. And the basic Gospel message is all that is needed for (and is the only means of) salvation. Now that may not be a popular thing to say. It wasn’t in John’s time and it certainly isn’t in ours either. But if what Jesus says about His being the definition and source of life itself is true, then He and only He can give us salvation. And we as Christians must protect ourselves against a false definition of tolerance that would lead us to think otherwise, not embracing any other doctrine other than that which is revealed in scripture. God’s Word is our anchor; and it is our protection against those who would lead us astray. And therefore we must study and know the Word of God; and most importantly be constant communion with our Lord and Savior so that knowing Him (the genuine) we might easily recognize the counterfeit. Let us draw near to Him today. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.