Greetings! Welcome to the program. We’ve been taking a look at the epistle of 1 John. And this epistle centers around helping believers to recognize false teachers and how to be sure that they themselves are in Christ.
Three Tests-- And so John gives three vital tests that can be used to determine whether or not someone is a true believer. First, does the person hold to sound doctrine? Do they believe the essentials regarding Jesus, man, sin, atonement, etc? Secondly, are they living lives that are moral in keeping with God’s commandments? This is a major theme in 1 John; the fact that the Christian is one who lives a life that is holy, demonstrating consistent victory over sin and a death to their old way of life. And thirdly, is the love of Christ manifest in that person’s heart and life? Do they demonstrate a love for God and a love for people that is (like Christ’s) self-sacrificing?
Spirals-- Now the outline of 1 John is kind of like a spiral. He touches on each of these topics and then circles back to them multiple times, taking us a little deeper each time. And so in the beginning of chapter 4 he circles back to the importance of doctrine. Let’s go ahead and look together at…
1 John 4:1 (ESV) Test the Spirits-- 1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The Gullible Cop— Not long ago I ran across an interesting story. [A cop pulled a guy over for speeding at which time the following conversation was exchanged:
Cop: May I see your driver's license?
Driver: Sorry, I don't have one. It was suspended when I got my 5th DUI.
Cop: May I see the owner's card for the vehicle?
Driver: It's not my vehicle. I stole it.
Cop: Are you telling me this is a stolen car?
Driver: That's right. Mind you, now that I think of it, I believe I did see the owner's card in the glove box when I was putting my gun in there.
Cop: There's a gun in the glove box?
Driver: Yep. I put it there after I shot and killed the woman who owns this car. Then I stuffed her in the trunk.
Cop: There's a BODY in the TRUNK?!?
Driver: Yes, sir.
When the cop heard this, he immediately called his captain. Within minutes, the car was surrounded by police and the captain approached the driver so he could handle the tense situation:
Captain: Sir, may I see your driver's license?
Driver: Certainly. Here it is. (It was a valid license.)
Captain: Sir, who owns this car?
Driver: I do, officer. Here's the owner's card. (The driver owned the car.)
Captain: Sir, slowly open your glove box so I can see if there's a gun in it.
Driver: Yes, sir, but there isn't a gun in it. (There was nothing in the glove box.)
Captain: Would you mind opening your trunk? I've been informed you said there's a body in it.
Driver: No problem, officer. (The trunk is opened and there is no body.)
Captain: Sir, I don't understand any of this. The officer who pulled you over said you told him you did not have a license, you had stolen the car, you had a gun in the glove box and there was a dead body in the trunk.
Driver: And I'll bet he told you I was speeding too!]
Ideas Have Consequences-- The gullibility of others can be used in many devious ways. And the same is true in our day and age; gullibility can be a powerful tool of the enemy. We live in a world that is filled with all kinds of conflicting ideas and different belief systems. False ideologies; false teachings are very dangerous because “Ideas have consequences.” What we think about things matters, because it affects the way we live our lives. John talks a lot about walking in light and walking in love. But he also emphasizes just as much the importance of walking in the Truth. We have to be sure to expel false ideas and adopt the good ideas. But how do we do that? May it involve our having to tell people (at times) that what they believe (although it may be well-intentioned) is false? And if so, isn’t that being judgmental?
The Angry Bouncer-- Many years ago I was part of a Christian group that ministered to men and women coming in and out of strip clubs. And from outside the parking lot, we were trying to encourage people to find a better path of fulfillment and were sharing with them the hope of Christ. Now this was difficult to do because the owners were often set against us. And I remember one night in particular; one of the workers came out and began yelling at us; preaching at us irrately, saying “Don’t you know the Bible says ‘Do not judge.’”! You see, we were the hateful, judgmental Christians who were just trying to make people feel guilty. Now we weren’t there to protest (we didn’t have signs or anything like that), but were trying to persuade the men and women going in and out to seek Christ rather than to seek fulfillment in that kind of sinful place.
Jesus Mis-quoted-- But let me ask you, “Does the scripture really teach that we are not to confront the evil in other people?” The passage that I hear so often quoted regarding this message is…
Luke 6:37 (NIV)-- 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
We Can’t Tell People They are in Sin?-- And many take this to mean that you and I are not in any position to tell anybody they are wrong or that they are going to hell. Why? Well, they quote:
Luke 6:41-42a (NIV)-- 41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?
Are We All Sinful?-- And they interpret this to mean that we don’t judge because we are all sinful people. But that is not what Jesus is saying at all. In fact, like we’ve said before, the word Christian literally means “little Christ”. Therefore for a Christian to be sinful (full of sin) is a contradiction in terms; because Christ was never full of sin. That is why John argues so strongly in his first epistle about how our victory over sin is one of the chief ways we can know that we are Christians. He says in…
1 John 3:6-7 (ESV)-- 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
Called To Be Holy-- You see, we are called to be a holy people; separate from sin; like Christ was. The issue Christ is talking about here isn’t with our telling sinful people what they are doing is wrong; the issue is condemning people for the very sins we ourselves are guilty of. Notice how Romans 2:1 supports that interpretation…
Romans 2:1 (NIV)– 1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Hypocrisy the Real Issue-- So the issue, we see, is really with hypocrisy, not recognizing sin in another person. The last part of Jesus’ teaching here (about the plank), which is often overlooked, makes this abundantly clear. Jesus says…
Luke 6:41-42b (NIV)-- You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
We Are to Remove the Speck-- You see, we are called to help remove the speck, but we must be careful not to be guilty of committing the very sins we are pointing out in the lives of others. But we are supposed to correct somebody when we see that they are going astray. You need to tell them when and how they are wrong so that they can correct their ways, repent, and get right with God. We are to be ambassadors of truth, yet always in a respectful way.
Adrian Rogers Quote-- [Listen to Adrian Rogers: “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills. It is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie. It is impossible to find anyone in the Bible who was a power for God who did not have enemies and was not hated. It’s better to stand alone with the truth than to be wrong with a multitude. It is better to ultimately succeed with truth than to temporarily succeed with a lie.”]
Now John is very careful to connect in this epistle the concepts of truth and love. You have to stand for truth unequivocally, but it is not because you simply want to impose your ideology on somebody else in order to show them that you are right and they are wrong. No, it is because you know the barren wasteland that sin produces in the human heart. The emptiness; the brokenness. You know where the false paths lead. As a pastor, all throughout my ministry in EVERY church I have pastored, there have always been at least one or two people that I knew who were on the path to utter destruction. One young man I remember in particular had been strung out on drugs for an extended period of time; and I remember sitting with him in an institution one day, telling him if he ever wanted to be free (which he did) he had to surrender to Jesus and receive his help if ever he was to conquer his addiction. And that would mean a change of environment; a change of friends; a complete forsaking of all those things that continually led him astray. I had to confront and lead HIM to confront those areas in his life that were causing him to fall. And he eventually did and completely turned his life around. The reason we stand for truth is because we stand for Jesus; knowing that when surrender to Him comes into the lives of people, their lives are going to explode with the joy of experiencing liberation from sin as they are literally going to be brought from death to life. I have seen it over and over again. To stand for truth is not to be a bigot, but to be an agent of change in somebody’s life; not condemning, but coming alongside of them to help empower them to choose life over death. You will not always succeed in that, as not everyone is willing to make that choice. But if you are willing to speak truth in love, God can use you in amazing way. And so let us commit to be those voices that carry that hope found in surrender to Jesus Christ. 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.