It was a year ago that I first began writing about issues and incidents in both the secular and Christian world that gave me concern and a desire to address these topics in what I hoped was based upon a foundation of Scripture and critical thinking, which seems to be in short supply these days. As I look back on what I had composed, I tried to present my observations without subscribing to mere emotional reaction. It seemed that, from the responses I received about my writing, a lot of you were in agreement with my concepts and conclusions.
I do appreciate what you, the reader, have sent me in the way of compliments, prayers, and some criticism that I have taken to heart. It has caused me to do a lot of editing of original thoughts that, if I had released them without doing do, would have been mere outpourings of caustic and contrary attitudes that would have been unbecoming to me as a believer in the sovereignty of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I do not want to write or present anything that would cause me to compromise my walk with the LORD.
What I have to say about issues does not really matter in the overall progression of history and plan of God. Opinions and observations have been used to change the moral and ethical course of nations and the mindset of a people. All we have to do is look at the past few decades and the obvious decline of society to see that a lot of ideas were based solely on what we thought was good for us without consulting the LORD for His direction and advice.
Look where that has gotten us.
We have slid into a cesspool of humanism and self-centeredness that has reaped a harvest of death, disrespect, hatred, godlessness, and love of things that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. I don’t have to list examples here. Those of you who have lived through the past few decades know of what I’m thinking and to what I’m referring.
We have become afraid of our own shadow and live in fear of what people will think of us if we dare go against the social norms and present the concept that there are such things as absolute truths; that there are such things as good and bad, right and wrong; that the Scriptures are true; that there is no salvation for anyone outside of the finished work of Christ on the cross for our sins – that following Christ is the only way we can have eternal life with God in heaven when our eyes close in death – which still bears the statistic of taking one out of every one of us.
We are awash in a sea of moral relativism where we are comfortable with truth as we interpret it, and we do not dare impose our beliefs on anyone else for fear of being called a derogatory name or being ostracized from our peers, at the least. We are allowing others to do our thinking for us, both Christian believer and worldly-minded.
More and more I see the modern church bowing to the pressure to adapt to what the world wants us to accept and embrace at the expense of losing what testimony we possess in these last days. This is not the world’s way of being diplomatic and friendly with us, but is a deliberate attempt to crush our ability to protest wicked behavior by saying we’re non-judgmental.
We should get along to show godless people that Christians are not the old-fashioned, Bible-thumping, “sticks-in-the-mud” who can’t be “cool,” “relevant,” or “with it.” We have become cowards and fearful of offending behaviors and philosophies that are anti-God and anti-Christ. I do not see that kind of behavior or mind-set anywhere in the pages of Scripture.
When we read the Gospels, we do not read of our LORD telling anyone, “Well, you can follow me if you want to; I respect your beliefs and interpretations of truth. I’m as good as any other way to have peace with God.” No way. Just read Matthew 16:24-27, Mark 8:34-38, and Luke 9: 23-26. To follow Jesus, it meant all or nothing, and you can kiss your feelings and opinions good-bye. If you decided to devote your life to Him, in essence, from that point on, He owned you. You were not your own. There was absolutely no room for compromise or deals. He declared Himself the ONLY way to God the Father (John 14:6).
When it comes to what God expects of us in terms of obeying Him, what we think has no bearing on how He is to govern our lives and being.
Our LORD and the apostles wrote that, when someone comes to Christ for salvation, it is on His terms, and that is of our unconditional surrender to Him for the remainder of our days until we see Him face to face in the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21,22); and then we will serve Him for all eternity.
Each of the twelve men whom Jesus chose to be His disciples, save for Judas Iscariot, devoted their lives to His will and mission. Each man had his own unique personality that the LORD used for the accomplishment of His plan. What little is presented about the lives of these men shows that they thought of themselves as unworthy servants and did not wish to be the center of attention in the biblical narrative. They wanted the Lord Jesus to be the focus of everything in the story of redemption.
What I want to do is to look at one of the disciples in particular and present what he considered essential issues of the Christian life. If there was any one in Jesus’ group that was totally “gung-ho” about following the Master and had an aggressive attitude against anyone who dared cross the LORD, wanting fire from heaven to come down and kill His enemies, you do not need to look any further than John and his brother James, of whom the Lord Jesus referred to as “Sons of Thunder,” a reference to their lack of temperament and rush to emotion.
John was probably out of his teens into young adulthood when Jesus chose him as one of His disciples. The Scriptures refer to him as full of energy (Mark 3:17), intolerant (Mark 9:38), vindictive (Luke 9:54), ambitious (Mark 10:35-37), and yet learned the lesson of love in the school of Christ (John 13:23; 1 John 2:9-10, 3:14-18, 4:7-11). John was the only apostle to die a natural death, the others having faced martyrdom years before. His gospel, the three letters, and the book of Revelation make up ¼ of the New Testament Canon and was completed as a whole around 95 A.D. The apostle is said to have died around 98-100 A.D., calling upon the members of the church to “love one another.”
When we read the gospel of John, we note that it is he who was at the cross with the women and was given the responsibility by Jesus to care for Mary. John was the first to believe in the resurrection after visiting the empty tomb with Peter after the report from Mary Magdalene in John 20. John also wrote of Peter’s restoration by Jesus following his denial of Jesus on the night of His illegal trial in the last chapter of the Gospel.
John was not a man who saw things in any shade of color except black and white, and this theme is prevalent in his letters. He wrote I, II, and III John at a time when false teaching was coming at the early church in what seemed like waves, especially from the group known as the Gnostics, who became a problem towards the end of the first century.
These false teachers were going around declaring that the flesh as we possess it now is inherently evil and corrupt, while the spirit, which is our true essence, is predominantly good. To these false teachers, the idea of Jesus Christ being a man as well as God did not fit with their mindset. They taught that Jesus only appeared to be human, or, if He were human, His “Christ-spirit” left Him at the moment of death, rendering Him to just being a mere man whom God used, thus denying His divinity.
In facing this false teaching, John, being the last living apostle who saw Jesus in the flesh, was in essence the “last man standing” due to the fact that his contemporaries in early ministry were all dead by this time and were not able to give an accounting of their eyewitness testimony, having regulated that time to their writings and teachings to the next generation of believers.
The old man, now in his late 80’s or early 90’s, took it upon himself to compose the gospel that confirms the divine nature and origin of the Lord Jesus and to give authority to the other gospels as well, and to compose letters to the churches defending Christ’s authority and the need to be firm in their beliefs, accepting nothing less than what had been presented by the apostles and their students.
John was all too aware of the teaching of the LORD concerning false brethren and teachers who would try and ruin the effectiveness of the Gospel to change lives and bring people into the Kingdom of Heaven. To him, the purity and message of Christ and Him crucified was a matter of spiritual life and death. Anything less was to be shunned and condemned.
There was no “grey area” for John when it came to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was willing to join his friends in death if it meant that the message of Christ was to be triumphant in the Roman world and the ages to come until the day of His Second Coming. To John, there was no place for compromise or silence when it came to the souls of men and the means by which God had provided salvation for the sins of men through the finished work of Christ on the cross. In declaring the truth of Christ and His mission, John presented the fact that there was no other way by which anyone could be saved except through Jesus. There was not another option, and there still isn’t despite what anyone might say or think or advocate.
Neither John nor the other followers of our LORD would accept anything less than the pure message of the Gospel. Would that preachers today had that same kind of courage and unction.
As we examine what John presents in his first letter to the early church in future columns, we will see that despite politics, corrupt societies, abhorrence to the holy, and the sewer of self, Jesus Christ will have the last word, both in our respective lives and in the things of history and eternity.
I look forward to presenting this portion of Scripture to you in the following days, that we all may be again touched by the majesty and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Chapter 1 starts next time.