For the past two weeks I’ve been talking to you about truth. As I’ve discovered truth is something that is very prominent in the writings of John the apostle. It is a subject that he places much emphasis on and for good reason. John wrote in 2 John 4 that he gains great joy in seeing others walking in the truth – a joy that could be found in all of us if we desired it.Truth is something that can’t be argued with. If you’ve been at HPC these last few weeks you would have heard me expound on the fact that God is truth, Jesus Christ is truth, the Holy Spirit is truth. Any discussion and knowledge and understanding on truth begins and ends with that foundation. God determines truth, sets in place, and models it. From the beginning of time, the biggest conflict in the cosmos has been clash between truth and lie, where truth is good and lie is evil. Of course, this is not a conflict of equals. For when truth is revealed and a lie exposed – the lie is always destroyed. The consequences of that lie may still exist but the power of the lie is gone.
This cosmic conflict takes place not only on the grand scale of the universe and planet we live in but also in the hearts and minds of every single individual. Every decision, every thought, every feeling is either based on truth or lie. There is no middle ground. If there is anything that you would hear more clearly in these messages I hope it would be that there are two choices faced when confronted with truth. You are either choose it or reject it. In choosing absolute truth over perceived or relative truth (which is really a lie) you can experience the joy of truth found in the freedom it brings and it’s operation in your life. If you reject truth you ultimately be destroyed along with the lie when the lie is exposed in your last days.
Truth does bring freedom, and it does bring joy to those who walk in the truth (that is walk in love, and walk in Christ for those who weren’t here last week). But there is also the inescapable fact that for many truth is initially very painful, and very ugly. The reason for this is because truth exposes and confronts the lies that may be in a person’s life. When you really think about it, all of us at one point or another in our lives have had something we would never want revealed or exposed. Were the truth to come out it would be a very painful experience. And so it is for this reason that many people either ignore or run away from the truth. It is just painful and just too ugly to face. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You see, yes truth is painful and ugly from the perspective of the lie you try to hide or the façade you live in – but when truth is embraced in spite of that and exposes and confronts the lie – then the perspective changes and the beauty and pain-free joy of truth sets in as the lie loses its power in your life. It’s a very simple thing to understand folks, that truth is only dangerous (if I could use that word!) to those who are not in it!
So, I hope that summarizes in a brief way some of the important things I’ve already talked about in our look at truth. We’ve talked about how truth brings freedom, the operation of truth – how it works in people’s lives and how you know when you are in the truth. But today, I’d like to conclude this series with the very important words found in 2 John 1:7-13…
7 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. 11 Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. 12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.
2 John 1:7-13 (NIV)
It is very clear from these verses that John is giving a warning to his readers to watch out – for those who deceive, and who are not of the truth. There is another important aspect of truth that is unveiled in his words here and elsewhere in his writings and that is, Truth yields discernment. When your life is open to the truth and is truth is operating in your life then the truth will be observable in your life and you will be able to discern truth from lie.
But there is a key thing to understand here. Remaining in the truth is not a passive activity. Truth does not operate in your life passively. It is an active activity. It is daily decision and determination in a person’s life to remain in the truth. Truth is something that is actively sought out, not passively found. Did you hear me? Will you repeat that with me just so I know you’ve heard me correctly. Truth is something that is actively sought out, not passively found out. If someone isn’t searching for or doesn’t want to know the truth they won’t find it.
A story is told of a man resisting to pay the cost of oats he fed his mule. He decided to gradually substitute sawdust in the feed. Everything went fine for a while, but by the time the mule was satisfied with sawdust, he died.
The same is true spiritually in this discourse on truth. The changeover from truth to error is sometimes a slow process, and people don’t always know the difference. It happens when truth isn’t an active pursuit in a person’s life! Gradually, their hearts and minds are clouded and blinded to the sinister and seductive introduction of sawdust into their life. And before you know it, a person is dead spiritually from eating the sawdust of error. This is what can happen to someone who already knows and is experiencing the truth in their life! That is why, John was urgent and included his explicit warning in his letters to watch out for those who decieve. He’s saying watch out that you don’t eat sawdust.
Now this an important message to the believer but it is also important to the unbeliever or one who does not yet know the truth in their lives. If you’ve have never believed in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and your need for forgiveness of sins then my friend you are feasting on a wonderful meal of Grade A – lumber chips and dust. There is something better.
John clearly points out in his writings that truth yields discernment. He is effectively saying that those who are in the truth are wary of those who deceive, what is believed, and what is received.
wary of those who deceive
Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.
2 John 1:7 (NIV)
In writing this John is echoing something that has already been said by Christ,
…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
Matthew 24:11 (NIV)
A deceiver is described in the dictionary as “someone who leads you to believe something that is not true”. A deceiver is someone who is an imposter, who misleads, or a seducer. Here are some other characteristics about deceivers that are described in the scriptures:
deceivers tear apart the those who are passively in the truth
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
Matthew 7:15 (NIV)
Matthew 7:15 (Living)
15 “Beware of false teachers who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are wolves and will tear you apart.
Deceiver’s will never have an impact on people who are active participants in the truth. But beware if truth is just a part of your life. They will make you doubt the truth, they will make you confused, they will lead you down the path of anger, or bitterness, or pride.
deceivers draw away from the truth
29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
Acts 20:29-30 (NIV)
One characteristic among deceivers and those who distort the truth is that they seek to create a following centered on themselves. Instead of pointing to Christ as the way to the Father, they’ll point to themselves (or their teaching) as the way to Christ. Did you hear me? If you are in the truth and the truth is in you, you will recognize this and stand on the promise of scriptures that any man, women, or child, rich or poor, weak or strong, good or bad can come to Jesus Christ and receive forgiveness – you don’t need someone to point you the right way, you don’t need someone to be your mediator, you don’t need someone’s “special teaching” to direct you. All that is required is your simple belief and faith in the Word of God, as you call out to Jesus from your heart.
deceivers lie & teach pretend truth
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV)
deceivers deny to derail and destroy the truth
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
2 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)
These are only a few of the characteristics of the deceiver. Such a person is very dangerous. Their danger lies in the fact that they distort the truth and cover the truth so that lies may gain footholds in others lives. The sad thing is that the deceiver is often being deceived themselves! They will think and believe that what they are saying is the truth but in reality they are simply promoting the lies of Satan. How do they get deceived? Because they started eating a little sawdust…
John states that the basic premise of the deception of a deceiver is to deny Jesus Christ came in the flesh. In essence, denying His humanity. This is a very dangerous deception because if you say that Jesus did not come in the flesh then…
• you deny that Jesus was God in the flesh
• you deny that Jesus revealed the glory of God.
• you deny that Jesus modeled a life of obedience
• you deny that Jesus had to die for man’s sin.
• you deny that Jesus is the way of salvation.
One of the crucial tenets of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is God taking on flesh so that man may know Him.
A person who is in the truth and who is actively pursuing the truth in their life will be wary of the deceiver. Sadly, John identifies the deceivers as coming from within the church. Deceivers can come from the same chairs we sit in, they can come from the same Sunday school classes, they may have sung and worshipped beside us. Maybe their writings are found in the Christian bookstore we go to. Maybe their views are heard on the Christian station we listen to. John is very clear that we must “watch out” for them and be wary.
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
1 John 4:1-6 (NIV)
If you are in the truth you are…
wary of what you believe
8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
2 John 1:8-9 (NIV)
This is part of what it means to be actively seeking the truth – it is the constant watchfulness within our own lives to make sure we are in the truth. John says, “Watch out”.
John goes on to say, “that you do not lose what you have worked for…” what does he mean? The clue to answering this is found in the answer to what it is that is worked for. Since John has been spending so much talking about the truth it is obvious that he is not departing from that here. What John is saying is, “Watch out that you do not lose the truth”. The truth is what is worked for. In his gospel account John recorded the words of Jesus in response to a question posed by the people he had been ministering to…
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
John 6:28-29 (NIV)
That is “believe the truth”. That is the work of God to believe, to embrace, to have faith in. When John is talking about the potential for losing what you worked for, he is talking about the potential for losing the truth – what you believe, what you have faith in, which is Jesus Christ. He goes on further in verse 9 of his letter about the importance to continue in the teaching of Christ. And what is this teaching? Primarily that he is truth!! What he says, what he has done, is doing, and will do is truth!!
In this verse, John also points out two things to be wary of when examining what we believe.
1. The danger of going back….subtracting from the truth.
2. The danger of going ahead…adding to the truth.
Truth is truth. It cannot be added to and it cannot be subtracted from. So be wary of what you believe, evaluate your beliefs (or what you read or hear) against the authority of the scriptures and the conviction of the Spirit and stay in the truth lest you yourself be deceived or even worse become a deceiver.
If you are in the truth you are…
Wary of what you receive
10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. 11 Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.
2 John 1:10-11 (NIV)
The common practice of John’s day was to open the home to visitors. Traveling pastors and teachers needed homes to stay in and believers were asked to show hospitality to them.
John drives home the importance of housing only those who spoke of and agreed with the truth. This could be measured by their belief in his deity and humanity. John is making it very clear that to welcome such a person would to be condoning and joining in their wicked work. Again there is the line in the sand. You are either on the side of truth and righteousness or you are on the side of falsehood and wickedness – there is no middle ground.
How do we apply John’s words today? Especially in the light of the fact that we do not have such pastors and teachers who travel around and ask to stay with us?
I believe that while we may not entertain guests in the similar way as what was done in John’s day there are still things that we do have the potential for entertaining in our homes in our day. Things like books, television, magazines, teachings etc. that hinder the work of truth. I believe that John would speak in a similar manner to us, “If anything comes to you and does not bring the teaching of Christ, do not receive it into your house or welcome it. Anyone who welcomes these things share in their wicked work.”
Those are pretty strong words aren’t they? But here’s the thing…we must be wary of not only the obvious things but also the not-so-obvious things. What supposedly Christian material do we devour so readily without subjecting to the truth test? Do you have a favorite author that you read and like what you read, or a favorite preacher/teacher that you listen to and like what you hear? Have you taken care to check into their beliefs and what they or their organization promotes…does it follow the teaching of scripture? If you are in doubt are you willing to go to trusted spiritual leaders and ask them for their opinion so you can see if there is something you may have missed? The sad thing is, there is a whole slew of people in today’s Christian churches who are so passive in their commitment to truth that they will willingly embrace anything that “sounds good” or “feels good” without taking the effort to truly discover if it is good – if it is TRUE!
Sadly, there are far too many “spiritual giants” in today’s Christendom that are anything but. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing….
It’s not just the books we or our kids read, but what about the movies we watch…the music we listen to? Do they openly support or reject Jesus Christ and everything he stands for? Do they openly support or reject the truth? Friends there is no middle ground you are either on the side of truth or you are not!!
John is clear that there should be,
• no acceptance for the untruth…don’t even give the impression.
• No association with the untruth…or you’ll get infected.
• No ammunition for the untruth…don’t give the intention.
33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.
1 Corinthians 15:33-34 (NIV)
Friends, this is not a warning to stay away from people who don’t know Christ and disassociate yourself from the world – for the Bible is clear that we are to be light and salt to the world and we can’t be either if we aren’t in the world. But what I am saying is don’t be of the world – be wary of what you receive!
Think about this for a moment. If you were to invite someone into your home (believer or non-believer) would they look at the books, magazines, movies, etc. and be led to Jesus or away from Him? If someone was to walk around with you in a typical week of your life, would the things that they observe and see you doing point them to Christ or away from Him?
Examine your life, and be wary of what you are receiving. When you are active in the truth you are able to discern the things in your home in your life that you need to refuse rather than accept. Those who are in the truth are marked by truth in their homes, in their daily activities whether it be work or school, at the grocery store, at the movie theatre, in their life.
12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.
2 John 1:12-13 (NIV)
In John’s conclusion to his letter there is a phrase that I’d like to focus on in concluding this message and this series. John expresses the desire to meet “face to face” with his readers. Truth is something that is lived “in your face”. It something that is found when you seek the face of Christ. That is when you seek HIS truth in your life. When you come face to face, as it were, with the need for truth in your life and the awareness of the deception that is already there.
I believe that there is a lot of deception not only in the world but sadly in the church today. There are people being deceived and who are deceivers themselves because truth is not important to them – because truth is not found in God but in the individual deciding what is true and what is not. I am firm believer that true revival or renewal comes when the church of Christ and people in the world are confronted and come face to face with the truth! However painful, however ugly, as the truth roots out and reveals deception and when repentance is cried out by those confronted then the Spirit of God – the spirit of truth moves in and works an incredible miracle of changed lives and destroyed lies.
Do you know the joy of truth in your life? Is it something you are afraid of seeking? Friends, if this church is going to grow, if this church is going to have an impact in this world – if you are going to grow, if you are going to have impact in this world then truth must be your banner. You must decide, either you are on the side of truth or you are not.