Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3…

1 John 4:1-6   July 27, 2014

snopeslogoI don’t remember when Snopes first became a thing. It’s a website where you go to de-bunk those urban legends, those fantastic email forwards that just can’t be true, can they? Will a cut onion stored in your refrigerator cause all your food to spoil? Is Bill Gates really going to give you a brand new iPad? Is it really a Facebook virus? Is it really a Nigerian Prince who needs my money?

The writer in 1 John is telling his audience: don’t believe everything you hear.

 

 

Or, to our modern ears: just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.9d02495a8c8f270aeb1be95373e8fb016edb915b673258aefe29c0ab7ca2bbe5

Back when 1st John was being written down there was a movement afoot to emphasize the divinity of Jesus—disconnecting him from his human, fleshy, vulnerable body. To which the writer says, every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.

We should talk about that word antichrist shouldn’t we? Maybe your ears are still ringing from it. What do you picture when you hear that word? The devil? Something evil looking? We often will refer to the antichrist as someone who will come to rule during end times, who will bring a 1000 years of darkness. You’d think this term could be found throughout the Bible, as popular the word is in our culture. But it’s only found a handful of times in 1st and 2nd John. That’s it.

The word antichrist in Greek is way more to the point than our fanciful interpretation of it in English.

The Greek prefix “anti” means both “against” and “substitute for.”

So that word loses a little punch, doesn’t it? The pin-prick to our Hollywood imagination deflates the epic sound of antichrist. That is, until you spend a little time with those words and ask some questions. Questions like, “what is against Jesus in my life?” or “what is a substitute for Jesus in my life?”

Maybe there is an addiction that is continually separating you from your friends, your family, threatening your job, encouraging your own inner monologue of weakness. I can tell you, Jesus doesn’t want that for you.

Or, as you spend time on your smart phone or lap top, the messages of “3 things to never eat again and you’ll lose that belly fat” or “10 ways to be happy” or “25 ways to escape your reality.” Just think of the sifting of information we do every day. Thousands of advertisements and opinions and unsolicited advice barrage our screens and seep into our brains and hearts. They promise results and happiness. They promise a new identity. They often feel good and look good. But, more often than not, they are empty and they are not Jesus.

The writer of 1 John was telling his people, test the things that are fighting for space in your life, in your heart. Because they all don’t hold the same worth.

How do you test the spirits to know they are from God through Jesus Christ?

Well first, know who you are. You belong to God. You are God’s own. You are from God. You are a child of God. This is our identity. Knowing that is important before you test.

This is a test.  A pretty important test...

This is a test. A pretty important test…

It’s a messy kind of testing, folks. It’s not in neat, linear lines of blank bubbles waiting for your number 2 pencil to fill in the correct answer. Because to test the spirits – the things that seem spiritual and from God – is to test them from where you right now. In your own flesh and blood body.

And you test it with other people in their own flesh and blood bodies. It’s why we gather. It’s why it’s important to have a sense of community with fellow believers. So you can look in each other’s faces and say, “you come from God. And God is greater than whatever the world might tell you you are.”

It’s also why we read the Bible and pray- not only here together butbible-reading in our own lives. The leaders of River of Hope have been challenged to grow spiritually. And it is a challenge. It’s not easy. These past 2 years they’ve been challenged to read scripture daily and the Vision Table has also been talking about what God is saying to them in their prayers. It’s a hard thing to do because we’re so programmed to think we have to come away from the Bible with answers or 8 easy steps. Heck, we think we have to come away from scripture glowing and say, “my life has been changed” every single time. When, in fact, reading scripture daily is difficult. It’s difficult because it can reflect our lives oh so clearly that it hurts. It’s difficult because scripture can seem totally obscure and confusing. It is difficult because it is, just as we say week in and week out, God’s story and our story. It’s a messy, messy story. And it’s one important way God communicates with us, shows us ourselves, and yes, even transforms our lives. It’s challenging. It’s hard. Following Jesus doesn’t give you easy answers. It stirs up more questions. It strengthens your real, alive, active, every day faith.

To communicate with God, to talk to God can’t be done separate from scripture and prayer – it just can’t. It can’t just be once a month or once a week that you attempt this. It takes discipline. It takes practice. It takes living into it to discern what’s from God and what is merely your own idea or ego saying, “pick me! listen to me!” There are a lot of shiny things out there, begging to take up space in your life and call them Jesus, or just good enough.

McLaren_WeMakeTheRoadByWalking_smThis fall we’ll be starting discipleship groups. Small groups that will encourage you in your walk of faith. Small groups that will walk through the Bible together using this book: We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation and Activation by Brian McLaren. It is part of the confirmation program. Parents and mentors of confirmation students will also be involved. The entire congregation will be invited into this journey together, reading the Bible.

Click this link for videos and how to order.

 

 

 

 

 

There will also be an option of Faith5 groups for couples, singles, families of all kinds to practice talking about God in their The Bookdaily life.

Again, none of this is easy. But these 2 approaches are designed for those who are leery or afraid or new to this whole thing as well as for those who have been reading scripture and talking about God every day.

When we read scripture and talk to and listen for God in prayer, we are prepared to be sent out. We are prepared to be in the world – the world God loves. We are prepared to look at our Facebook feeds and the nightly news and to know what is from God and what is a false and empty promise. We are prepared to be in relationship with one another, to hold onto each other, to engage in the messiness that is human life.

You see, God came into the world in the flesh and blood and heart and life of Jesus for a reason. So that we might recognize God in flesh and blood in each other and in this world that God loves.  And then we are sent out, flung out, to love others and to be surprised when we bump into Jesus in other people. And we are loved by them and they are loved by us.

Watch this video: Disconnect to Connect

We’re going to end today by where we began. The first word of the reading today is:

Beloved

Say it with me.

We can also pronounce it be loved. Be loved.

And the way for us to be loved is to be in our flesh and blood bodies, just as Jesus was and is. Not disconnected by grand ideas or opposing political views. Not disconnected from daily life by distracted living and being too busy. Not disconnected by the lure of things that are merely substitutes for Christ, or against Christ. Because those things that are against a flesh and blood Christ are also against you.

We love and can be loved because we were made to be in relationship with each other.

We love and can be loved because we are not invisible but connected through a God who loved us so much, God connected to us through vulnerable flesh so that he could rejoice with us and weep with us, teach us and show us just how much we are loved.

And that is good news.

Thanks be to God.

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