(ill Sermon Central) ROAD SIGNS OF THE FAITH
During World War II, during the Battle of the Bulge, there was a group of German soldiers who dressed themselves in the uniforms of the Allies. These German soldiers used American military vehicles and went through the German countryside changing the road signs. When the American troops came to the various crossroads, they were often fooled and lead off in the wrong direction. This deception by the Germans almost gave them the victory in this very decisive battle of the Second World War.
Just like those German soldiers caused confusion and death by changing a few signs, so many in our day are leading millions off into Hell because they are changing some of the road signs of the faith.
As we turn to 2 John we see a similar situation within the Church today and throughout the ages. So let us open these about 325 words and see them as they were 2000 years ago and what they say to us in 2020.
• Intro Hello
2 John begins with the words “The elder, to the lady chosen by God and to her children,”
The elder is the writer of this letter. In today’s world we sign our names at the bottom of the letter but 2000 years ago it was normal to start the letter with your name and then to whom it was being sent. In this case the Elder is John, the disciple of Jesus, writer of the Gospel of John as well as 1, 2 and 3 John and finally the Book of Revelations.
The person John is writing to was possibly a particular woman but it is intended for a wider audience or group of believers. This group or community was loved and by others who know the truth. The truth is Jesus and in these opening verses. From the number of times truth and love are used it is clear that these are certainly key to understanding the meaning of the book.
Truth John is speaking of is Jesus who was, and is and will always be. It is the great hope John talks about in other places such as in John 20:31 (NIV) “31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Or as we know John 3:16 (NIV) "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
• Express His Joy in Their Faith and Love
As a parent I have always been interested in what my kids are doing. It is a thrill when they are involved in some activity no matter how it turns out, as long as they have tried. I think of our youngest, a real team player. When he was in school and any of the carnivals were on he would get involved. Swimming is not his strength but he would enter every race so that his house would get the points. I’m not sure that he ever placed in the top finisher, but we are so proud that he was willing to do what he could and support the house.
This is the same sort of pride that John has for the community of faith he is writing to. His joy is found in them bring obedient to the command of Jesus
to love one another.(John 13:34-35) A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
That love Jesus spoke of is how we and the church should be treating each other. John expands this love to how we are to show our love for Jesus and God, that is by listening to and obeying his commands, the particular command is to walk in love. John uses the term walk to mean live wholly in body, mind, soul for Jesus living out true love, Christian love of service, a love that is self-giving rather than self-serving. What a fantastic commendation and encouragement.
As the letter continues it can be seen that John is re-enforcing the foundation of their faith and he is reaching out in very strong terms which in the NIV is simply “And Now” where in the KJV it is “And now I beseech thee”
Why such strong language and the need for re-enforcing the foundations of their faith, they are explained in the next 5 verses
• Cautions Them Against Deceivers
Note that deception is not limited to the New Testament for in places like Jeremiah 5:2. God wants the truth known but there are those who do not want the truth of God known, as we can read Although they say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’ still they are swearing falsely. ”
In the early Church there were many itinerate preachers roaming the world and it all started when the persecutions in Jerusalem began in Acts 8 following the stoning of Stephen and Saul (Paul) was given authority to persecute the church. Other examples include: Phillip in Acts 8, Barnabas and Paul in Acts 13, and Apollos in Acts 18. These and many others were taking the great commission seriously, and going into the entire world with the good news of Jesus. (Matthew 28:19-20)
The problem John is writing about is false teachers going into the world (verse 7). The words suggest that these trouble makers were once part of the traditional Church and its orthodox beliefs about Jesus.
Jesus knew that there would be those who would come as wolves dressed in sheep clothing to come and destroy. Paul in Acts 20 warns the Ephesian elder of the danger as well.
When Jesus spoke and Paul spoke the fundamentals of the faith were not clearly stated as we have today.
In Acts 15 we have the Council of Jerusalem where some of the fundamentals were laid out. This was due to the issues involving the Gentiles entering into the Church, a church that had its roots in Judaism and the laws of the Old Testament. The council did not deal with theological questions per se rather with some practical matters such as Acts 15:29 (NIV) “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
But here and in 1 John the issues were not about food or sexual behaviour. Rather it is about real fundamental theological matters.
Remember that it was not until later second century that what might be called the Apostle’s creed was available and the Nicaean creed was written in about 325, some 200 plus years after John pens this letter. And the Athanasian Creed was written about 500 AD all to protect the truth of Jesus
In 1 John 2, John writes that there are those who reject the very essence and truth about Jesus and they are out to spread this false doctrine take care and know and defend the truth.
In 2 John it appears that this same group or like-minded followers are out to destroy the faith.
It appears that the Gnostics were the problem. Gnosticism is about secret knowledge. This secret knowledge is required for salvation.
Gnostics held that the physical was evil and the spiritual is good.
A divine spark is somehow trapped in some (but not all) humans and it alone, of all that exists in this material world, is capable of redemption.
Salvation is through a secret knowledge by which individuals come to know themselves, their origin and destiny.
Since the physical is bad, and God is GOOD, there is no way he could have created the world. It was something that was imperfect that did that. That being was the God of Abraham.
In addition, Jesus if human could not be good, since Jesus was good he must only be a spirit.
To overcome the question of the how we could see Jesus, there were a number of gnostic ideas each leading to a different forms of heresy.
For example one group held that a human was born and that at the Baptism of Jesus, the God Christ entered into this world. At the crucifixion the God Christ departed before anything really happened to the human Jesus.
Another belief was that the God Jesus came into the world and only took on something that people imagined was the human form so there was nothing of substance on the cross.
Whatever brand of Gnosticism it was, the real issue was that Jesus could not be wholly human and wholly God. The Bible we have, shows us that Jesus was both, wholly both God and man at the same time such as in
John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
So what, what about today, what do we need to be aware of, certainly no one around here would ever suggest Jesus was not fully human and fully God at the same time.
Well, maybe there are other heresies we need to be aware of.
• Mormonism, a so called church, holds that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternal as is mankind. Whereas the Bible clearly show that man was created by God from the dust of the earth
• Jehovah Witnesses hold that God the Father created Jesus who in turn created everything else. This makes Jesus less that God of the Trinity we believe
• In the Dan Brown novel “The Da Vinci Code” secret knowledge is being sought. How many people believe it claims? As a movie it grossed almost a Billion dollars
• But one of the most threatening is the belief that the Bible is not to be trusted. The first time I had an experience with liberal theology was when I was in the US as a teenager. At the time I was part of the Lutheran Church and we had a curate. He left the church because the Lutheran Church held the Bible to be true and the curate did not have the same belief
• A survey was done asking Christians their view of Jesus. Most held that He was true God and True man, but a surprising number don’t think he was really God, Yes a teacher and healer and miracle worker, but not God. There is even a small percentage that do not believe that He actually ever existed.
Yes there are problems even today as there were 2000 years ago. Inside the church there are people who, like the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, are trying to bring about a false religion and brand it Christianity. So what can we do to make sure that does not happen here?
• First may I suggest affirming the Bible is true. Read and study the Bible. Individually, with one or two others, in some small group bible studies.
• Check out what the preacher is saying. Make sure it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is too easy to make the Gospel politically correct, and in so doing lose its power. 1 John 2:6 (NIV) “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” It is here in the visible marks of the true church that truth should be seen, and will be seen if the Word of God is rightly taught.
• Take some learning from places like https://christianuniversity.org/free-courses/ Our Daily Bread
• https://www.biblicaltraining.org/ Biblical Training
• https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/ Gospel Coalition in partnership with Our Daily Bread offer ideas of how to use their material in small groups. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/courses/
• Get Christian books you can find many at Koorong and even find suggested reading in the various online courses from the Gospel Coalition courses
Note verses 10 and 11. A warning for the church about even inviting them into their homes.
Today this seems hard to accept such a politically correct world. Christians are condemned for standing up for the truth while anti-Christian voices can be heard almost everywhere. I would encourage you to read the article by Jennifer Oriel in her piece in the Australian, “Faithless Australians may lose more than just God” 3 JUL 2017
• Until later
The Letter finishes with the hope that John will come to the community of faith and visit them face to face.
• So What?
So as we come to the end of the sermon, the question is “are we ready for battle, or are we being fooled, like the Germans tried to do at the Battle of the Bulge, into believing a false god?” What are we doing to prepare for the battle, and a battle is coming. The Bible has the instructions, the Spirit provides the equipment, what we must do is to get into harder training so we will be prepared for Battle. The Bible reminds us that we are to:
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 AMEN