Summary: How do you know you are a Christian? John’s third suggestion is called the Doctrine Test and focuses around knowing the Truth!
Tonight we are going to dive right into our lesson for tonight. We’re continuing to look at John’s guides for answering the question, “How do you know if you are a Christian?” Rather than refresh our memories with what we have talked about the last couple of weeks now I want to wait and sum everything up together at the end.
To start off our conversation, I want to throw a question out at you guys that one of my college professors asked our class to write a paper on. It was probably one of the most difficult papers I had to write in college and the question just blew my mind. I had a lot of really challenging conversations with my classmates about this question and it seemed like there were so many different sides and opinions about it. So, I want to know what you guys think as the question will apply to the last guide that John lays out. The question is, “Do Christians and Jews worship the same God?”
***Give time to debate and discuss this question***
The reason that this question fits into our discussion for tonight is because the final guide that John lays out is what we will call The Doctrine Test. What does doctrine mean? According to dictionary.com, a doctrine is “a particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated, as of a religion or government.” In other words, it is information, data, details, etc. So therefore, without even getting into the text yet, John is talking about having certain information, and in a sense, the right answers.
To take it a little deeper and to explore more specifically what John is talking about, let’s open our Bibles to 1 John 2:19-23.
***Read 1 John 2:19-23***
In order to understand The Doctrine Test we need to start by looking at verse 19 and understand what John is talking about. John writes, “These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.” Does anyone have any ideas about what John is talking about?
If you remember back to when we first started looking at 1 John, we talked about that a big reason that John was writing was to speak against a group of people known as Gnostics that were rising up and causing conflicts with the church. They believed that they could get to heaven solely by having this special knowledge and that morals and loving one another didn’t matter at all. They also believed that all matter was evil and that only spirit was good. Therefore, Jesus could not have been God and man. These were the men and women who were leaving their churches and John indicates that they never really belonged there.
One of the reasons that they didn’t belong there was because of the doctrine and beliefs that they held. John quickly turns the corner though from them to focus on those who are still involved in the church and calling themselves Christians. Listen to verses 20-21 again. “But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth. So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know the difference between truth and lies.”
John here gets more specific and says that hose who call themselves Christians “know the truth” and “know the difference between truth and lies.” I think that it’s really important the way that John writes this. He implies that there is ONE truth, singularly, and that there is a difference between that one truth and everything else, which he calls lies.
Culturally, this is something that is really contradictory to what the world around us says about truth. Today, the world says that there is no such thing as absolute truth, that truth is relative and determined by each individual. What’s ok for you is ok for you and what’s ok for me is ok for me. Another way this is communicated is that all paths lead up the same mountain and to the same god. Well, the problem with this view is that it is completely, intellectually impossible. There can only be one truth. Take this for example…if I told you that inside this bag that I have is an apple, would you believe me? If I showed you the outline of what was in the bag and said it was an apple, would you believe me? Regardless of how many different things I did and regardless of what you believed, the apple in the bag would still be an apple. That is the truth of the situation. See, our world wants to be able to have you say that it is a banana and me say it is an apple and both be right. The problem is that it can’t be both, only one person can be right.