2016 05 01 pm Lord’s Day 43 1 John – The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

Is speaking the truth all that important?

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

When you stand in the witness box in court, you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  And if you are discovered to be telling lies in the witness box, the penalties are very severe.  It would seem then that we value the truth as a society.

However, some of you may have seen a recent video clip that is doing the rounds of a man at Washington University speaking to college students.  He is a white skinned, American man, of average height.  But he tells people that he is a 6 ft 8 Asian woman.  And interestingly enough, the thing that people question is the height!  The point of the video is that more and more people are glad to accept what you say as your truth.

It would seem then that we can no longer be certain about things as simple as a person’s sex or ethnicity or height.  And if that is the case, then truth is in trouble.

When Jesus spoke with Pilate about being on the “side of truth,” Pilate said, “What is truth?”  And the best answer for many today would be that truth is what is true for you.

So what is at stake here?  Does this really matter?  Is truth such a big deal?  Well, to answer those questions, we turn to 1 John.  There are many places in the Bible we could turn to to read instruction about speaking and behaving truthfully.  And we will say something about that later in the sermon.  But today we want to consider God and the truth as the foundation for how we speak and behave.

So what we are going to see in 1 John is that the Apostle Exposes the Scope of the Struggle Between Truth and Lies.  And we will begin with some brief words about the reasons why John wrote this epistle, and then look at some portions of the epistle noting what is said about truth as it relates to our position in Christ and then truth as it relates to our practise as Christians.

  1. So first of all, let’s briefly consider the reason why John wrote this letter.
    1. And we find this in 2:18-19. Unlike Paul’s Epistles, we don’t have the name of a particular congregation or an individual at the beginning of the letter.  In fact, the original audience of John’s letter is not specified anywhere.  What the letter reveals though is that John is probably writing to a congregation that he is or was a part of, because he speaks of his readers and himself as “us.”  And if you look at 2:18, you will see that John speaks about antichrists.  And he explains in v22 that the antichrist is “he who denies the Father and the Son.”  It appears then that there was this group of antichrists who had once been members of the congregation that John wrote to but who had now left.  You see this in v19 where John says, “They went out from us.”  And from our study of John’s Epistle and other material of this time, we know that there was a group of people who did not believe that Jesus was eternal God.  And they had tried to convince everyone in this congregation of this, without success.  And so, they had left probably forming a new congregation.  But because these people came across as having deep convictions and probably because they were the majority and sounded very persuasive, those who remained behind were having doubts about what they believed.  What they had believed was true about Jesus was being called into question.  So that is why John writes to them.  He wants to give them certainty and confidence about what they believe.
    2. I wonder if you boys and girls have seen Dad build a fence or a deck some time? Posts – holes … concrete!  Well, the post of these believer’s faith had become a bit wobbly.  So with his epistle John will pour some concrete so that the believer’s post of faith is solid and secure!
  1. Let’s see how he does this then as we look firstly at truth as it relates to our position in Christ.
    1. And we start with the opening verses of ch.1 where we have a statement of truth.
      1. If you are familiar with crime-drama, you will know that detectives will ask someone connected to the case to provide them with a statement. And that statement can be used as evidence in the courtroom.  It is a record of the facts – where you were, what you saw, what time it was, who else was there, what happened, etc.
      2. Well the words here read like an evidentiary statement: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you.”
      3. So John is reminding believers that He saw and heard and touched Jesus, just as you and I might see, hear, and touch any other human being. Jesus truly  John is a witness of this truth.  But he also wants believers to see that there is much more to his testimony about Jesus than your typical ‘evidence statement’ of contact between two people.  As he speaks about Jesus in v2 as “eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us,” he is reminding believers about the opening words of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The human being that John saw and heard and touched was also the eternally existent Son of God.  He came to earth and did many miraculous things before dying on the cross and rising from the dead.  And He did this that by believing in Him we might have eternal life.
      4. That is the astonishing truth that John proclaims: Jesus is eternal God.
  1. So, why is it then that not everyone believes the truth about Jesus?
    1. Well, the answer to that question is given in 2:20-27. Please turn there.  We spoke earlier about the antichrists who had been a part of the congregation John writes to.  And a group of them had gone out of the congregation John writes to.  And John contrasts them with the believers who had remained.  And what he says explains why it is that some believe the truth about Jesus and others do not.  Verse 20 says, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.”  Those who believe do so because of the anointing of the Holy One, who is the Holy Spirit.
      1. You see, we human beings begin life with this terrible problem. Romans 1:18-20 describes mankind in his natural condition.  We are told there that the truth about God is plainly revealed in creation, but that men “suppress the truth by their wickedness.”
        • And boys and girls, to suppress is to keep down or to hide. When you are starting to get a little bit upset and you feel like crying but you don’t want to cry so you keep a straight face and wipe quickly away any tears, you are suppressing your feelings, or keeping them hidden.

Well, by nature man suppresses the truth about God; he does not want to believe the truth about God; he is a God-denier.  So he refuses to believe.  What he needs is a new nature that loves the truth about God.  And this only happens when he is born again by the Holy Spirit.  You can read about that in John 3.  And it is what is described here in v20, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.”

  1. In John 14-16, Jesus repeatedly told the disciples that He and the Father would send the Holy Spirit. He said, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth … [And] when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.”  Sinful man comes to know the truth about God and about creation and about the Lord Jesus and about our need for salvation in Him only by the anointing of the Spirit of truth.
  1. But we see more of the scope of the struggle between truth and lies as we continue from verse 21. John says, “I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.  Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father.  Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.  Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that he made to us–eternal life.  I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.  But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you.  But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie–just as it has taught you, abide in Him.”
    1. John wants believers to see that what we are talking about here is truth and lies. Jesus is the Christ.  That is not opinion; it is the truth.
    2. And if you know and believe and confess that Jesus is the Christ, you have the Father. If you do not, then you do not have the Father.
      • You see, the antichrists of this time denied the divinity of Jesus but claimed to know and believe in God the Father. What we read here though is that if you deny Jesus, you do not have the Father.  An essential part of God’s character is that He is the Father of Jesus.  So if you refuse to believe that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, then you do not know the Father.
        • So today we might have the mistaken idea that the Jews of today or perhaps even Moslems believe in God the Father but not Jesus. But that is not the case.  The only way to the Father is through the Son.  Jews and Moslems do not believe in the God of the Bible – they worship an idol of their own making.
  1. Well, one more passage as we continue to see that truth lies at the very heart of the believer’s position in Christ. Turn next to 5:10.  John continues, “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.  Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.  And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”
    1. At the beginning of the sermon I asked three questions: What is at stake when we talk about the truth? Does it really matter that much?  Is truth such a big deal?  Well, God has given us the Bible which tells us the truth about Jesus.  The most important question that every human being needs to answer is, Do you believe it?  If you do not, then you are saying that God is a liar.  But if you do believe the truth about Jesus, then you may be certain then that you abide in the Lord Jesus now and that eternal life is yours.

That is the relationship of truth to your position in Christ.

  • So secondly and more briefly, we see that because truth is essential to our position in Christ, it must also be an essential part of our practice as Christians.
  1. If you turn back now to 1:5, you will see that John gives us a very interesting description of the character of God. He says, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”  So believers will reflect the character of God then.  And this is what we see in vv6-7, “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Sons of God will reflect the character of their Father in heaven; they will be people of the light and not people of the darkness.
  1. But John expresses this same truth also in relation to the Lord Jesus, as we see in 2:3-6. Let’s read those verses now.  Having described Jesus as our advocate and our propitiation, John says, “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.  Whoever says “I know Him” but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in Him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”  So again, our position in Christ must be reflected in our practice as Christians; Christians will reflect the character of Christ.  They will behave as He behaved, they will speak as he spoke, they will think as He thought; they will “walk in the same way in which He walked.”
    1. And to see how necessary and important this is, before we consider a few specific words of application, please turn also to 3:4-10. There we read, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.  You know that He appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin.  No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.  Little children, let no one deceive you.  Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in Him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Brothers and sisters, young people, and boys and girls, can you see now why the truth is so important?  It is important because it is an essential part of the assurance of your salvation – you can only be confident that you abide in Christ and have eternal life if you are certain that God has told you the truth about Jesus Christ.  It is important because it is a reflection of the character of God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And it is important because to speak the truth is to practice righteousness, but to lie is practice lawlessness.  This is why “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”  This is why each one of you shall “speak the truth with his neighbour (Eph 4:25).”  And this is why we are told that “as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.”

Earlier this week, some of you may have heard about Martin Castrogiovanni.  Castrogiovanni is a rugby player who plays in the same team as Dan Carter.  He was born and raised in Argentina but he plays for the Italian national team.  Well, two weeks ago, he asked the coach if he could have some time off to deal with some family matters in Argentina.  It would mean he missing an important semi-final match of the European Champions Cup, but permission was granted.  Well, you can imagine how upset the coach and the rest of the team and the fans were when a few days later they saw photos in the newspaper of the Champion soccer team of France partying in Las Vegas, and who was there with them?  Martin Castrogiovanni.  So Castrogiovanni is in a whole pile of trouble for lying.

And we should be thankful that we live in a society that believes it is wrong to lie.  But you can be sure that there will be plenty of people who cannot see what the fuss is all about – he wanted to have a party, so what?  He told a little porky, no big deal.  After all, no one got hurt, they would say.  Don’t we all tell a fib every now and then?  His mistake was not lying but getting caught.  And the only reason it is in the news is because he is a sport celebrity – everyone ‘bends the truth’ a little, every now and then, to suit themselves.  Right?

But “whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil.”  Christians are to love the truth and speak the truth.  Christians should not lie.

  • Boys and girls, when Mum or Dad ask if you if you did this or that to your sister or if you broke this or if you said this, your first instinct will probably be to lie to try and avoid being punished. But the Bible calls the devil the father of lies.  Your Father, though, is God and He loves the truth and He hates lies.  So always tell the truth.
  • And young people and adults, more and more of what we watch today we watch online. And it is quite common today for one person to buy a subscription to access some sort of online broadcast and then give his or her username and password to family and friends.  But if you are using someone else’s username and password to avoid paying yourself then you are lying.
  • But there are other ways we can practise dishonesty also:
    • When you speak about someone else and you emphasize their flaws and failings without mentioning any points of value or virtue, though your words might be true, they are unfair and damaging because they are not the whole
    • When you hear something bad about someone and you have no way of knowing whether or not is true or the whole truth, but you share it with others anyway, you are guilty of slander, which is a form of lying.
    • And when you share with someone else the fact that Bob spends this many hours each day on his computer, or that Mary watched the whole series of a certain TV show on the weekend, even if it is true, it is probably said to demean the person you are talking about, which means it is not all in keeping with the command of Jesus that we only say what is “good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
  • Lying, as we read earlier, “is a work of the devil. And the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”  So Christians are to love the truth and speak the truth.

Now, perhaps as you hear these points, you are recognizing that you are guilty of sin in relation to our duty to tell the truth and not to lie.  And you have heard me quote Scriptures that say that No one born of God makes a practice of sinning and that the portion of liars is in the burning lake of sulphur.   Well, listen to the words of 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Even believers will not be free of sin on this side of heaven.  Instead, as v9 continues, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  What we have said about the portion of liars being the fires of hell describes those who lie repeatedly and who do not confess this as sin and repent of it.  The believer, on the other hand, is he or she who is quick to turn to the Lord in confession and repentance when they are convicted of sin in this or any other area.

Congregation, God is truth.  Jesus truly is the eternal Son of God.  Truth is essential to the assurance of salvation.  And these things are why it is important that we love the truth and speak the truth.

But we also read earlier we read from 1 John 2:18, which talks about antichrist who will come.  2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, which we also read earlier, speaks of this antichrist also when it says that “the coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  The time of the antichrist or the lawless one will be characterized by “false signs” and “all wicked deception.”  Unsurprisingly, given that the devil is the father of lies, his brief outburst before the return of Jesus will be characterized by that which is false and deceitful.

So how can we be ready to recognize the false signs and deceit of the lawless one?  Well, I am reliably informed that bank tellers are trained to recognize counterfeit money not by studying counterfeit money but by regularly handling genuine money.  And this is because if you are intimately familiar with genuine money, the fake stuff is easy to spot.  So the best way to be ready to recognize the falsehood and deception of the devil is to be intimately familiar with the truth of Jesus Christ that God has given you in His Word.  For then the lies of the evil will be easy to recognize and avoid.

So with that in mind, we close with the words of 1 John 5:20: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life.”  And that, people of God, is the truth!  Amen.