Sermon Transcript - January 26, 2020
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ 2 John 7-11 ~ January 26, 2020
January is almost over which means you’ll be receiving, if you haven’t already, your W-2 statement from your employer, your annual mortgage statement from your lender, and interest earned statements on your bank accounts. And if your tax situation is getting more complex than filing a 1040EZ, maybe you’re also looking for a tax preparer. Imagine that’s the case for you, how would you feel if you were in this lady’s shoes?
It makes sense to find a tax preparer who can reduce how much you owe in taxes as much as the law allows. Yet as much as we might be drawn to a tax preparer who promises to eliminate our taxes entirely, if that tax preparer does it through deceptive, illegal practices, whatever amount might be saved in taxes isn’t worth the risk of the fines or worse if you get caught.
We are right to be careful about these kinds of things, things that can affect our lives in drastic and profound ways. When it comes to our finances, our health, our freedom, or our future, we don’t want to just anyone to give us advice and direction. We want someone who knows what they’re talking about, someone who will do the right thing and point us in the right direction, with the courage to tell us what we need to hear even if it’s not what we want to hear.
If that’s how we are in protecting our health, our wealth, our life on earth which lasts only a short time, how much more so when it comes to the health and well-being of our souls! That’s what’s on the heart of the Apostle John as he pens the section of 2 John that we’re focusing on today.
John is writing this letter to a group of Christians who are unnecessarily putting their souls in harm’s way. It’s happening because they’re being too welcoming. Let me explain. Hospitality is a good thing. Going out of your way to help someone who is hungry or someone who needs a place to stay, that’s something good and God-pleasing. But there is a kind of hospitality that isn’t good. This congregation is involved in it. They are welcoming people who want to preach and teach among them, but what they’re preaching and teaching isn’t good for the health and well-being of their souls. That’s why John writes so urgently, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work” (2 John 10-11). John isn’t advocating that they act rude. No, what he wants is that these Christians would be shrewd.
Here’s why. These traveling preachers and teachers didn’t come into the church with nametags identifying them as “John Doe, Preacher. By the way, I’m a False Teacher.” They didn’t have an evil glint in their eyes that warned you, “This guy is trying to turn us away from God’s truth!” They were subtle. Twice John calls these false teachers deceivers (v. 7). It’s interesting that the word John uses to describe these false teachers is actually related to the idea of being a wanderer, or a roamer, or a vagabond. It’s the Greek word planos. In ancient times, when astronomers would look up into the heavens, they would see a star. But when they went to look again some time later, they’d have some trouble finding it. They discovered that the crazy thing had moved! It turned out that they thought was a star really wasn’t a star at all! They had been deceived! And so they called it a “planet”—a star that was a ‘wanderer’. And that describes what a planos is—someone who induces people to wander from the true path of God's Word.
Be sure to also note how John says that such deceivers “have gone out into the world”. It wasn’t simply that they were out in the world and now try to get into the church. Many false teachers do indeed develop their dangerous ideas and philosophies from the ungodly world system that’s around us, and then try to bring those teachings into the church from the outside. But in the case of what John is writing about, it appears as if they had originated in the other direction—having come from within the Christian circles. These traveling missionaries may actually have been former members of this congregation, people who the members personally knew, loved, respected, and trusted. Yet somewhere along the way these former members wandered from the truth of God’s Word in their own hearts. That’s bad enough, but even worse, they’re now trying to lead others astray from God’s truth too.
I’m a fan of the Green Bay Packers. That’s a bit painful to admit after watching them get obliterated by the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday in the NFC Championship game. But far more painful was to read this week that Aaron Rodgers, star quarterback of the Packers, has wandered from his Christian roots. In a recorded conversation with his girlfriend, retired racecar driver, Danica Patrick, posted on her YouTube channel, Rodgers says, “There’s only 144,000 of us going to heaven, even though there is 7 billion people on the planet. I don’t know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the planet to a fiery hell. What type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn his beautiful creation to a fiery hell at the end of all this?”
I can understand why this would be upsetting to Rodgers, if the ideas he shares were actually true. So are they? Is his assessment in harmony with God’s Word? Actually, what he says reveals just how dangerous false teaching truly is. Churches who teach that only 144,000 people are going to heaven are taking what is a symbolic number in the book of Revelation and treating it as though it is the literal capacity limit for heaven. But that interpretation is clearly wrong because the verse that immediately follows the description of the 144,000 says of heaven’s population, “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding branches in their hands” (Rev 5:9).
Even more concerning is Rodgers’ assessment that God wants to condemn human beings to a fiery hell. But does that conclusion square with bible truth? I mean, if that’s really what God wants to do, then why would he go to all the trouble of sending his eternal Son, Jesus, to be born into this world? Why would he go through the heartache and heartbreak of putting his own Son through hell on the cross in place of sinners if what he really wanted to do was send all but 144,000 people to hell anyway? And if that was the Father’s plan all along, why would Jesus agree to go along with it? How could he possibly keep a straight face and have a pure heart when he says to Nicodemus: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him” (John 3:17)? And if people weren’t in any real danger of facing eternity separated from God because of their sins, then why would Jesus willingly substitute himself for sinners in gut-wrenching agony on the cross as he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”?
Author Fitzsimmons Allison shares some powerful insight into why falling for heresy, for false religious ideas, is something that can happen rather easily. In his book, The Cruelty of Heresy [Morehouse Publishing, 1994] he wrote,
We are susceptible to heretical teachings because in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way we would have it be rather than the way God has provided, which is infinitely better for us. As they lead us into the blind alleys of self-indulgence and escape from life, heresies pander to the most unworthy tendencies of the human heart. (Italics his.)
So how do we protect ourselves from the soul-harming, faith-destroying influence of deceivers and the tendency to follow our pride and wander from the truth? Keep that question in mind and consider this: The United States Mint has printed some pretty large bills. Here is on such example: a $10,000 bill. Yes, there actually is such a thing. They were printed in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Estimates are there may be as many 350 of them still in circulation. Now that you know such a bill exists, would you be able to recognize one if you came across it? If you did, how would you know if you actually had the real deal? Well, you’d need to know what the authentic $10,000 bill looks like, the distinguishing characteristics that prove it is genuine. For those in the business of distinguishing real currency from counterfeit cash, they often talk about the “feel” of real money versus fake stuff. The way they’re trained to spot fake bills is by getting them so accustomed to the look and feel of the genuine article that when they come into contact with a fake one, they spot it almost instinctively.
That’s what we want when it comes to recognizing truth from error, genuine biblical teaching from deceptive ideas that will separate us from the truth. John urges you to get to know God’s truth so well so that even if someone tries to lure you away with something that is false, “that you do not lose what we [the apostles] have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” What is it that the apostles have accomplished in you? What you have received from them? “The teaching,” straight from God’s own heart, revealed to them, which they wrote down together with the words of the prophets of the Old Testament, completing what we know today as the Holy Bible! In the Bible you have been given the truth about who Jesus is: He truly is God from all eternity and truly human, becoming man when he was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. You have been given the truth of what he has done: took on flesh to suffer and die and rise again to save sinners like you and me who are tempted to think we know better than God and his Word. Jesus came to save us from our own pride and how, left unchecked, it would inevitably lead us into living now and forever separated from God! Yes, hold on to this truth you’ve been given because this is how you truly know who God is, you truly know what he’s done for you, and through believing the truth of Jesus Christ you have a true relationship with the one true God! Hold on to the truth! Do so by knowing it so well that even if someone were to try to pass off something false as though it were from God, you can almost instinctively spot what’s fake versus what is true.
Do you realize when we gather together like this, for worship, for bible study, that we’re helping one another with this? We gather together to help and encourage each other hold on to the truth we’ve been given. One of the best ways we do that is by inviting each other to get into God’s Word so that more and more we get to know God’s truth forwards and backwards, inside and out. The more we spend time in Scripture, the better each of us knows the truth, the better protected we all are from being deceived by anything that isn’t true. Which is why I’m looking forward to the start of The Story, a special churchwide journey together into the message of the bible. I’d like to share a short video that gives and overview of what this is about and how this can help all of us.
Starting Sunday, February 23, we’ll formally launch into this journey together at Christ the King. All are welcome to come along for this exciting exploration of God’s Word as we get to know God’s true message to us from Genesis, the first book of the bible, through Revelation, the bible’s very last book. Between now and February 23, I’m inviting you to order The Story book for you and each member of your family. Samples for each age group are available in the lobby. I’m looking forward to digging into the Bible’s message in this way with you, growing together in our vigilance for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth of who God is and what His Son has done for us and for all! Amen.