How to Respond to My Former Church-Going Friends

How to Respond to My Former Church-Going Friends June 26, 2022

How to Respond to My Former Church-Going Friends

How to Respond to My Former Church-Going Friends

How to Respond to My Former Church-Going Friends (1 John 2:18-29) is the fourth sermon in a series about “Engaging with My Spiritual Friends.”

Introduction

In the latest Gallup Poll,[1] belief in God dipped to 81%, down 6 percentage points from 2017, and the lowest since Gallup first asked the question in 1944.

“Belief is typically the last thing to go,” said Ryan Burge, assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. “They stop attending, they stop affiliating and then they stop believing.”[2]

“It makes no difference what you believe, just if you are sincere!” That statement expresses the personal philosophy of many people today, but it is doubtful whether most of those who make it have really thought it through. Is “sincerity” the magic ingredient that makes something true? If so, then you ought to be able to apply it to any area of life, and not only to religion.

A nurse in a city hospital gives some medicine to a patient, and the patient becomes violently ill. The nurse is sincere, but the medicine is wrong, and the patient almost dies. A man hears noises in the house one night and decides a burglar is at work. He gets his gun and shoots the “burglar,” who turns out to be his daughter! Unable to sleep, she has gotten up for a bite to eat. She ends up the victim of her father’s “sincerity.”

It takes more than “sincerity” to make something true. Faith in a lie will always cause serious consequences; faith in the truth is never misplaced. It does make a difference what a man believes! If a man wants to drive from Chicago to New York, no amount of sincerity will get him there if the highway is taking him to Los Angeles. A person who is real builds his life on truth, not superstition or lies. It is impossible to live a real life by believing lies.[3]

John warns us of the time when there will be a falling away from the church.

We live in a time when people will fall away from the church. John warned us about this time.

Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. By this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18, CSB)

When John talks about the “last hour,” he is talking about the time when Jesus is coming back. He is talking about what the ancient prophets called “the age to come.” This started when the church began and continues to this day.

Other writers called it “that Day,” “Day of the Lord.” John calls it the “Last Hour” so show its urgency. What indicates that we are in the “last hour?” the prevalence of “antichrists.” An antichrist is another word for false prophets. An antichrist wants to claim to be Christ and take the place of Christ. That is what false prophets. They take the place of Christ. They claim to know God and that they speak for God. Some even claim to know more about God than Christ Himself.

The passage begins with the coming of antichrists and ends with the return of Christ. These verses serve as “bookends” the idea of staying connected to Christ. How does an individual connect to Christ? You connect through the local church. Between these two expressions, the antichrist, and the return of Christ, we see John talk about the local church.

One of the criticisms you will hear is that Christians don’t need the church. The church is not an individual task for the Christian. They are the living body connected to Jesus.

The church is called the bride of Christ. An individual Christian is not called a bride of Christ. The church is called the bride. The church is called a community. We are expected to be there for each other. The early church did that through “local expressions” of community. There were “church communities” that were unique from one another. They all were Christian, and they “remained” in Christ. However, they had a local flavor. The church at Corinth was different than the church in Rome. The local churches started by Paul are different than the local churches started by John.

The church is called a body. Christ is the head, and we are the parts of the body. The body cannot walk around without the head. Individual pieces of the body can’t operate without being connected to the other parts of the body. We don’t see hands walking on fingers, like “Thing” from “The Munsters.” We don’t have individual parts of the body living outside of the other parts. They are all connected.

SEVEN BENEFITS OF STAYING CONNECTED WITH THE LOCAL CHURCH

A true sense of belonging (1 John 2:19)

They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.” (1 John 2:19, CSB)

The first great benefit of staying connected with the local church is a true sense of belonging. There is a true need for believes to feel the need of belonging to one another. This need is not just fulfilled in being with a family. This eternal need is fulfilled temporarily in the context of the local church. No matter how imperfect the local church may be, there is a picture of the eternal belonging that every Christian feels. This longing is satisfied only within the church.

The danger here that John mentions is that people come into the church who never belong there. Lost people who never come Christ, don’t belong in the church. But there are other people, who make belonging to the church a painful experience. They don’t show the love of Christ because they are too selfish. It may be painful to see people who don’t belong in the church take people and tear the church apart.

Yet, John reminds the church here that true belonging is going to be felt by those in the church. When you know Jesus like you should, you will want to belong.

An anointing and continue growth (1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27)

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” (1 John 2:20, CSB)

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, his anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:27, CSB)

Professor Danny Akin makes the following comment about this verse.

A play on words is apparently taking place in this passage in which the terms antichristos, christos, and chrisma are all being used to explain the difference between the secessionists and the ones who have remained faithful to the Gospel. The believers should be encouraged because they have received an anointing from “the anointed one,” here called the “Holy One.” The term chrisma appears in the New Testament only here and in 2:27. The background for the anointing may be either Jewish or Greek, and the idea may refer to a figurative or literal event.[4]

So those who are former church going people are like the antichrists of this world. They left. Jesus Christ wants us to be anointed. What exactly is this anointing?

The anointing is the blessing that comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in every true believer. It’s not a second thing one must try to achieve. Instead, a Christian immediately receives the Holy Spirit. One who is truly connected to Christ and the church, has the Holy Spirit.

A faithfulness to the true Gospel (1 John 2:24)

What you have heard from the beginning is to remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.” (1 John 2:24, CSB)

The Gospel is the news that Jesus is God’s Son, who gave His life for everyone who believes in Him. This is “what we have heard from the beginning.” This Gospel remains with you.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works.” (Titus 2:11–14, CSB)

Therefore, let us leave the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this if God permits. For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, who tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away. This is because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:1–6, CSB)

Another benefit of staying connected to the local church is that you stay faithful to the Gospel. A church that truly follows Jesus will promote the Gospel.

A continuation of the relationship with Jesus (1 John 2:24)

What you have heard from the beginning is to remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.” (1 John 2:24, CSB)

A truly great local church will encourage members to continue the relationship with Jesus. A church’s role is to support and supplement the relationship that a person has with Jesus. I come to meet every week so that I can encourage my individual relationship with Jesus, not replace it.

A hope for eternal life (1 John 2:25)

And this is the promise that he himself made to us: eternal life.” (1 John 2:25, CSB)

Remaining in my relationship with Jesus, together with others, gives me a hope for eternal life. We usually think in terms of an eternal life that an individual receives. Jesus gives me eternal life. But the fact is that this eternal life is not going be on a heavenly island. Heaven is going to be a place where everyone who knows Jesus will join.

A protection from worldly deception (1 John 2:26)

I have written these things to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” (1 John 2:26, CSB)

False teachers not only depart from the fellowship and deny the faith, but they also try to deceive the family in their attempt to cloud people’s understanding of the true nature of the Son.[5]

Does the gospel abide in you? Or does it come and go according to your circumstances, with compromise replacing conviction? The reality of the gospel can be confirmed in your life when it propels you to remain consistent. This example makes a good point.

The following is a Russian parable. A hunter raised his rifle and took careful aim at a large bear. When about to pull the trigger, the bear spoke in a soft, soothing voice, “Isn’t it better to talk than to shoot? What do you want? Let us negotiate the matter.”

Lowering his rifle, the hunter replied, “I want a fur coat.” “Good,” said the bear, “that is a negotiable question. I only want a full stomach, so let us negotiate a compromise.”

They sat down to negotiate, and after a time the bear walked away alone. The negotiations had been successful. The bear had a full stomach, and the hunter had his fur coat. [But not in the way he expected it!] Compromises rarely satisfy both sides in equal measure.

Never compromise with the enemy. You will lose every time. Keep abiding in the Word and in Christ. It is the only way to be safe![6]

A confidence when Jesus returns (1 John 2:28-29)

So now, little children, remain in him so that when he appears we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:28, CSB)

The final benefit of being a Christian and part of the local church is that we avoid the guilt and terror of the judgment of God. Those whose names are in the “Book of Life” avoid this judgment. Those who know Jesus come together weekly to remind ourselves of the promise we have to avoid judgment.

The final verse is a reminder that in the end, people who truly are Christians will show it with confidence in the way they live for Jesus. They look forward to the return of Jesus.

If you know that he is righteous, you know this as well: Everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” (1 John 2:29, CSB)

Pastor John MacArthur, makes the following statement about true Christianity:

The hope of Christ’s return not only sustains faith (as we see in 1 John 2:28) but makes righteousness a habit.[7]

In other words, the best way to respond to people who were former church going friends is to be to Christ and live out the faith that you say you have.

[1] Jeffrey Jones, “Belief in God Dips to 81%, a New Low”, 17 June 2022, Gallup, Internet,   https://news.gallup.com/poll/393737/belief-god-dips-new-low.aspx, accessed on 21 June, 2022.

[2] Yonat Shimron, “Poll: Americans Belief in God Is Dropping.” Religion News, 21 June 2022, Internet,   https://religionnews.com/2022/06/21/poll-americans-belief-in-god-is-dropping/, accessed on 22 June 2022.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 497.

[4] Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 117.

[5] Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1622.

[6] Leadership Ministries Worldwide, Practical Illustrations: 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 2003), 36. The Russian parable comes originally from: Michael P. Green. Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, p.76.

[7] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 1 Jn 2:29.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


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