Summary: Christianity is fact, not fiction.
Walk the Talk
Rev. Brian Bill
We’ve had this scale in our bathroom for as long I can remember. You can tell it looks old but what you don’t know is that the readings aren’t very reliable. No really, they’re not. Sometimes when I step on it I feel extremely svelte and other times I feel like a beluga. Now some of that can be attributed to my late night nachos and cheese but we’ve discovered that the scale actually is all messed up. Because of that, we don’t use it. We walk by it, step over it and sometimes push it out of the way but we’ve never thrown it away…until today. What we really should do is just buy a new one but I don’t think we want one that is accurate. It’s sometimes better to not know the truth, if you know what I mean.
That reminds me of the conversation two kids were having as they closely examined some bathroom scales at Wal-Mart. “Have you ever seen one of these before?” one asked. “Yeah, my mom and dad have one,” the other replied. “What’s it for?” asked the first boy. “I’m not sure,” the second boy answered, “But I think you stand on it and it makes you mad.”
We’re beginning a new series today called “Confident Christianity” and we’re going to be standing on the scale of God’s Word from the book of 1 John. Instead of getting mad, I believe we’ll end up being very glad. Could I encourage you to read this brief book at least twice before next Sunday? We also have discussion questions available on our website, at our Resource Center and I’ll also include them at the end of each sermon manuscript.
Who, What, Where, When, Why
The apostle John wrote this book, along with the Gospel of John, the brief books of 2 and 3 John and the Book of Revelation. When he wrote this letter he was living in Ephesus and would have been in his late 80s or early 90s. In his old age, he’s reflecting and reminiscing and as the only apostle still living at the time, he spoke with great authority. There’s something about an older person sharing spiritual truth that makes us sit up and listen. I experienced that this week when I visited Ray Tuley, one of the founders of PBC. He’s in his mid-80s and getting weaker by the day. But when he talked about the Lord and how he can’t wait to see Him, I sat forward and took it all in.
1 John is known as a general letter, meaning that it was not sent to just one congregation but was circulated among the believers. The tone of the letter is tender as he refers to his readers as “little children,” but he also is tough on those who are spreading false teaching. His predominant purpose is to remind believers that they can be certain about the truths of Christianity and confident in their relationship with Him. His writing style is a bit like a sermon and he uses repeated themes to call us back to the basics.
Often the letters that make up much of the New Testament were written to counteract some heresy that had infiltrated the church. In fact, a lot of the councils, and the creeds that came out of them, confronted error and clarified truth. The Apostle Paul warned about this widespread distortion of truth in Acts 20:29-30: “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”
The word “heresy” means to “select or choose.” False teachers teach some truth but then mix in their opinion as they select certain themes and ideas to focus on. John is dealing with a false teaching called Gnosticism which taught that matter is evil and only the spirit is good. This has a lot of nuances but the most dangerous is that they believed Jesus did not really have a flesh and blood body but was more like a phantom. According to this view, Jesus didn’t really die or rise from the dead. Gnosticism, which got its name from the word “knowledge” in Greek, also taught that only those who had special knowledge could be saved.
Because of this belief, two behaviors emerged. By the way, wrong beliefs always lead to wrong behaviors.
• Flesh fasting – Since the body is evil, any urge must be purged. In this view, people would unplug from the world.
• Flesh feasting – Do whatever you want because matter doesn’t matter. These people went to the other extreme and unplugged from any moral restraint.