Summary: How to know what is right when uncertainty confronts us.
We live in times of rapid change. Just this week I’ve been reading about how shopping malls are becoming a thing of the past as people opt to buy everything from dog food to cars and even houses over the Internet. You know, recently Encyclopedia Britannica laid off every single one of its sales staff in North America when it opted to replace its 26 volume book set with a CD ROM and sell it over the Internet. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was learning how to use a microwave let alone the internet!!
We live in times of rapid change. And with it comes uncertainty.
As Christians what do we make of this rapid change? What do we make of IVF?, of transplant surgery? Euthanasia? Genetic engineering and cloning sheep? What do we make of single parenthood? Of homosexual marriages and homosexual priests? A generation ago none of these things were common issues. But today they’re prevalent in our society.
In the passage we are looking at today, we discover How to Be Sure About What is Right When All Hell Has Broken Loose.
This was the condition under which the recipients of this letter found themselves. They were not only having to come to grips with the teaching of their new Christian faith, but they also had to deal with false teaching which challenged them. These original believers had accepted all that the Apostles had taught them about Jesus and Christianity, yet now they faced the challenge of charting the waters of their new found faith. And possibly without Apostolic leadership. John was getting old, he didn’t know how much longer he would be with them. He was concerned about their continuing faith.
Even then, as it does today the Christian faith brought radical social changes to the lives of believers. John understood that finding the way forward was sometimes difficult and mistakes were easily made. And so John gives his readers some practical pointers to help believers know how to be sure about what is right when uncertainty reigns.
The believer can be sure about what is right when all hell has broken loose by:
1. Sticking with what Jesus has said (v24-25).
John’s inspired instruction first tells us to,
1JN 2:24 See that what we have heard from the beginning remains in us.
Now John is a man who should fully understand the weight of this seemingly simple instruction. What he’s actually saying is, “When confusion reigns, stick with Jesus; Hang in there.” And these are not just empty words for John. The Apostle is speaking from experience. It is believed that this letter was written by John, the Beloved Disciple, in the later years of his life when he was around 75 - 95 years old. Towards the end of the first century. John’s faith had endured much, not the least of which was the postponed return of his best friend, his Lord and Saviour Jesus.
For all this Apostle knew, Jesus was to return in his lifetime, but he didn’t - yet this fact didn’t weaken John’s faith one iota. How could it? John had walked with Jesus, he had talked with Jesus, he had seen the empty tomb of the risen Jesus, he had spent hours under his instruction. It was this, the instruction of his Lord that John fell back on time and time again.
He even falls back on it here. In v25 he says, “This is what he promised us--eternal life.” John is casting his thoughts back to the verbal promises of Jesus.
Fortunately for John he had first hand experience under the instruction of Jesus. It was easy for him to recall it. But you know, the only difference between John and the 20th Century believer, is that John had the joy of hearing Jesus’ Galilean accent! Because we have the words of Jesus right here in front of us. Through thousands of years, Jesus’ instruction has come down to us as well, and like John we can fall back on it too.
How well do you know your bible? Do we have a knowledge of it to fall back on when all hell breaks loose and confusion reigns and the way ahead seems unclear?
John says, “Stick with what Jesus has said,” “Stay put with him.” When we’re faced with uncertainty we need to ask ourselves, “Is this in accordance with the Christian tradition outlined in the Bible?” When we’re faced with uncertainty need to get back to basics and this will help us discern the truth.
We should note here that by the phrase, “Remain in him,” John is not meaning for us to dwell in the same state or condition, neither does he mean for us to never move forward with the times. To do that would be contrary to the rest of Scripture. It is clear that God wants us to grow and mature. Instead, John uses the word “remain” in this instance, with reference to ‘place,’ ie location. “See that what you have heard from the beginning ‘settles down’ within you.”