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The Threat is Real…Abide – 9/17/23

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The Threat is Real…Abide – 9/17/23


Ryan Ferguson


September 17, 2023


1 John, 1 John 2:18-27


In every war movie or military-themed TV show that I’ve ever seen, when someone’s walking through a field or the jungle and their foot lands on a landmine, another actor in the scene always says the exact same two words. So, let’s see if you know them. I’m walking through a field. My foot happens upon a landmine. You’re beside me. What are you going to tell me to do? “Don’t move!” The threat is real. It’s right under your foot. Don’t move.

Dmitri, a novice hiker, visited Pisgah National Forest. He came to a large wash out with a really thin ledge and decided to daredevil his way across. He made it, but at the end, his foot hit a root and he did a head-over-heels tumble all the way down to the bottom of the ravine. Shaken, scratched up, and now, with the fog of a concussion, Dmitri got up and began to walk in the wrong direction. About thirty minutes later, he realized he didn’t know where he was. So, he decided, “I’m going to keep moving. I think I’m going to cross the path in this direction.” Unfortunately, Dmitri only continued deeper into the half million acres that is Pisgah National Forest. Four days later, Dmitri was found by search and rescue, and they began treating him for dehydration and exposure. A spokesperson commented on the news. “If you are a hiker and get lost, stay put, don’t move. You’re more likely to be found. Stay put. The threat of getting lost is real; so, don’t move.”

When there is a threat, don’t move. No matter the threat…. [Movie clip] When the threat is real, whether it’s a land mine, disorientation in hiking, or a very rare tarantula, the best advice is often “don’t move.” When the threat is real, don’t move.

John is giving us that exact same advice in our text today. But he uses a word — “abide.” When the threat is real, abide. Stay put. Stay at home. Don’t move. Don’t wander. Abide fits into John’s overall point in the letter. This is how we know. How do you know if you’re following Jesus? If you abide. And just like Harry and the tarantula, the threat to John’s readers and to us is very real. John presents two threats that want us to move away from abiding. Two threats: loving the world, listening to antichrist or antichrists.

Threat number 1 is loving the world. That’s 1 John 2:15-17. Matt preached on this last week. At the end of that section, John says this.

“Whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

And at this point, John is only continuing the theme of abiding. It is all over the book of John. John talks about abiding in 1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 24, 27, 28; chapter 3 verse 6, 9,14, 15, 16, 24; and chapter 4 verse 12, 13, 15 and 16. Abiding to John is a big deal, and it’s everywhere. And John says if we do the will of God, we abide forever. So, what’s God’s will? Well, in that section, it’s don’t love the world.

“Love, not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”

And we learned last week that means don’t mindlessly or purposefully participate in the world system that’s against Jesus. As Matt said, we can’t simultaneously love the world system and the kingdom of Jesus. You can’t do both. The threat of loving the world is real. Abide. Don’t move.

Threat number 2, and this is what we’re going to deal with today, is listening to antichrist or antichrists. 1 John 2:18,

“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore, we know it is the last hour.”

Before we talk about antichrist, let’s figure out what’s going on with “the last hour.” When or what is that? I got some help from a smart guy named Thomas Kidd. Thomas wrote this — The last hour is a

“theological assertion not a chronological indicator.”

Those are still some big words. I would put it this way. John is teaching theology. He’s not telling time. This isn’t about a clock and calendar. It’s about the resurrection and the return of Jesus. Between the resurrection of Jesus and the return of Jesus is the last hour. And we know it’s the last hour because antichrists are coming.

So, now on a wonderful, rainy Sunday morning in September, let’s spend time talking about antichrist. Just what you came wanting to hear, I’m sure! You can’t read a passage or teach a passage in the Bible that mentions antichrist a couple of times and skip it, even though I’d really like to because it’s weird and it’s kind of complex. I’d like to just move over it, but we’re going to tackle it anyway. So, here’s some observations.

Number 1, antichrist is a creepy word. As my dad used to say about things that creeped him out, Buzz would say “that gives me the heebie jeebies.” You know, John is the only author in the New Testament to use that term, and he only uses it a couple of times. And yet antichrist culturally, both Christian and outside the church, is really well known. It seems like Hollywood has capitalized on the concept of antichrist with movies, movies like Omen. If you’re really old like me, you might remember that title, or more recently, the movie Antichrist with Willem Dafoe, or even movies with Christian themes like the Left Behind series starring the always fantastic Kevin Sorbo.

Each of these films attempts to capture the mystery and menace of antichrist, some type of demonic, hybrid human-demon exhibiting supernatural powers and taking over the world, or at least that seems to be the theme Hollywood loves. And when it comes to antichrist in culture, no matter what political party you are of, your president has been accused of being the antichrist. So, do Hollywood, politics, and culture in general match John’s understanding of antichrist? Because that’s what matters — John’s understanding of the word. And I don’t think they match up. For John, antichrist is someone who denies Jesus by claiming to be the Christ, the Messiah, or denies Jesus by discrediting Jesus’s claims. So, let’s deal with that first one. Jesus predicted that first one actually.

Jesus says this in Matthew 24.

“Jesus answered his disciples, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and they will lead many astray.’”

Do you see how closely Jesus and John’s messages match? Jesus says, “Don’t be led astray.” John says, “Abide. Don’t move.” Jesus says, “Many will come claiming to be me.” John says, “Antichrist is coming and many antichrists are here.” For both, the message is the same. The threat is real. There are other sources who will claim to be Christ. Abide. Stay put. Jesus is the Christ. There’s going to be people who stand up and literally say, “I’m Jesus.” There’s actually an entire page on Wikipedia of people throughout history who have claimed to be Jesus, the Christ, or a reincarnation of Jesus. And friends, if you read through it, it doesn’t really turn out well for their followers at all. So, it’s someone who denies Jesus by saying they are the Christ.

But John adds some complexity when he says, “So now many antichrists have come.” And we’ve moved from singular to plural and from future to present. So, what or who are these antichrists? Well, let’s keep reading. 1 John 2:19-23,

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they are all not of us. [In contrast] but you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 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.”

So, let’s remember this group that John is writing to is splintered. That’s what John’s talking about by the people “who went out from us, who weren’t of us.” “If they’d have been of us, they would have stayed. But they went out to show they weren’t of us.” That group who left, is not people who went from one church to another church. It’s people who went from one belief about Jesus to another belief about Jesus. Does that make sense? Are we tracking so far? It’s a little complicated. We’ll keep going.

John is writing to them and saying, “Stay in your claim about Jesus.” John says directly, “This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.” And we learn later in the book, particularly, John is writing for those who deny that Jesus came in the flesh. That is antichrist. And it’s so beautiful, and we have to keep remembering this about the whole book of John that John is writing to remind a group of people about what they already know. This is where we line up with this book. John is writing to people who already know something; so, they keep knowing it. John shows his faith in the people who remain in their belief. 1 John 2:21,

“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.”

His motivation to write is the fact that you know who Jesus is. So, John is writing to encourage perseverance, not to highlight ignorance. Encourage perseverance. Keep abiding, keep abiding; you’re not ignorant; you actually know the truth; don’t lose it. Guys, John is saying, “Guys, keep believing what you say you believe. Abide in it. The threat is real. The world and antichrist are real. Abide.”

John later in his writing, further clarifies that view. I mentioned this a second a second ago, but it’s important to hear. 1 John 4:1-3,

“By this, you know the Spirit of God; 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. This is the spirit of antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

Jesus is man and Messiah, both. Abide in it. Don’t move.

So, in summary for John, antichrist is a system, its beliefs that reject Jesus’s humanity and divinity. Antichrist is a speaker, the one who rejects Jesus’s claims. Antichrist is spiritual. It’s an infiltrating counter belief against Jesus’s claims about himself. Antichrist is substantial. It’s real people in real time saying real things that aren’t true. Antichrist is now. It is here. Antichrist is then. Antichrist is always coming. Antichrist is particular. It’s someone who literally claims to be Jesus. Antichrist is general. It’s those who reject Jesus’s claims regarding his person. That is antichrist for John.

Because I’ve said the word antichrist about one hundred fifty-eight times already, I have to say one really important thing. John’s main and primary point in this moment is not antichrist. That’s not what he’s writing about, and we can’t get lost. Antichrist is evidence of the last hour, and antichrist is a threat whose remedy is abiding in Jesus. But we have to deal with something because antichrist is well known in church world and in culture. So, I want to try to answer a question so we can remove it from our brains for the rest of our time together and focus on abiding. I’m going to try to answer it. I’m going to admit up front I don’t think I answer it very well, but we’re going to give it a whirl anyway.

So, the question is this — Does scripture point towards a penultimate antichrist, a solitary person who arises in the future and deceives the world? So, I’ve got to be honest with you. I really just wanted to use the word “penultimate” because it sounds cool. But for my brain, if I’m more honest, this is how I think about that idea. If you’re a video gamer, think of it this way. Is there a final boss antichrist? At the end of a video game, you always have to beat the highest level, bad guy. In the story of the scriptures, is there an ultimate, final level, singular antichrist in the future? Let’s see if we can answer that question. Five things.

Number 1, maybe, but John isn’t teaching that here. Number 2, maybe if you link antichrist in John to other passages in scripture like Thessalonians and Revelation. Number 3, maybe. It is believable. I think in general, in our culture, that one person with supernatural charisma could deceive the world through spiritual, technological, and other political means. It is somewhat believable. Number 4, maybe. It’s also believable that the world is overtaken by a system (systemic power) rather than a singular person. And number 5, and probably most clearly, so, maybe. That’s my definitive and clear answer to the question that we can remove from your mind now.

Here’s the point. In the end, all of these maybes create a lot of room for diversities, and that’s okay. I cannot unequivocally tell you yes or no. If there is one in the future, guess what? The message is the same — “Don’t be afraid. Abide.” If in the future, it is a system that takes over, guess what? The message is the same — “Don’t be afraid. Abide.” So, no matter what, John’s main point stays is main point — abide. Antichrist can draw us into mystery and weird conversations, and maybe there’s some fruit in there, but John’s primary point has a tree full of fruit that we need.

So, let’s ask the question what does abiding look like? If you’ve ever met with me or we’ve talked about an issue at some point or other, I draw pictures. It’s just kind of how I’m wired. And this passage is a little weird. So, with the help of Lensi Cruice, our amazing Director of Communications, I took some figure drawings, and she made them prettier and better. And I hope these images will serve you as we try to unpack what does abiding look like because John says this. This is what we look like. We are abiding right now. We’re in Christ. We’re in the cross, so to speak. That’s true. It’s not a lie, John says. Don’t move away from that reality. But how do we stay there? Or how did we get there? So, let’s start at the beginning.

This is us in life, and we learn from John that there are two threats that come at us that threaten us to continue in abiding. Threat number 1 is love of the world. Love of the world is coming at us as we abide. Threat number 2 is listening to antichrist. Those are exerting force on us, attempting to move us away from what we believe. They want to move us from truth to a lie. So, what John does in the section we’re covering right now is he provides two truths to combat those two threats. We have two threats coming at us, and John says, “But remember these things right here so you know you’re abiding.”

Truth number 1 is the message that we heard; the message heard. We abide by remembering the message that we heard. 1 John 2:24 and 25.

“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. And if what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us — eternal life.”

Well, now we have another question. What did we hear from the beginning? What’s the message that we heard that we have to keep in there? And John keeps repeating that message over and over and over in his letter. We’ve talked about these things over and over. But let’s start at the beginning. What message did John give these people? And he did it right at the beginning of the book. 1 John 1:1-3,

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we’ve 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, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

What message did John start with from the beginning? The message of Jesus’s identity. John saw him, touched him, heard him, and then John is saying, “Hey, I saw it, and I’m declaring to you the message of Jesus.” “Let what you heard from the beginning abide you” — the message of Jesus’s identity.

Number 2, 1 John 3:11,

“For this is the message that you heard from the beginning.”

John just flat out tells us. What’s the message you’ve heard from the beginning?

“That we should love one another.”

So, if you confess that Jesus is who he says he is, you will love your brother. That’s the message you heard from the beginning, and that abides in you.

Finally, 1 John 3:24,

“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God and God in him.”

The message you heard from the beginning is the message of obedience. The message we’ve received from the beginning contains John’s three signs of life or John’s three tests that we’ve talked about over and over in this book. If you teach through this book, you keep teaching the same things over and over and over. What do you believe about Jesus? Do you love your brother? Do you do what Jesus says? That message … If you heard that message, those things abide in you. They become part of you. They fill you. They change you. We’re filled with that message. It takes root inside of us, and we know it. And if that message, those three things, abides in you, then you abide in Jesus. That’s what John says. Is that message you heard in you? If so, you abide in Jesus. You are in the cross. Abiding is reciprocal. The message abides in me, and I abide in Jesus. I have a place of safety now against the threats of loving the world and listening to antichrist. I get to stay home now. I get to abide.

But it doesn’t stop with just being in Jesus. John says if that message abides in you, then you abide in the Son and in the Father. There’s more holding you there. John’s putting that exclamation point on his commitment to Jesus being man and Messiah. Jesus is real man, and he’s the Son of God. You have to have both. You can’t have one or the other. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you are abiding in the Father and in the Son. And basically, John’s looking at all of us and saying, “You can know if you’re abiding. It’s not a secret. It’s not some weird spiritual thing you have to figure out. You can know if you’re abiding.” That’s truth number 1.

Truth number 2, to combat those threats is the anointing received. We have the message that we heard and the anointing we received to protect us. 1 John 2:20,

“But you’ve been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.”

1 John 2:26 and 27,

“I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.”

There’s a threat coming at you.

“But the anointing that you received from him abides in you.”

So, that anointing abides in me.

“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.”

Just like the message we received abides in us and becomes part of us, so this anointing abides in us and changes us.

So, here is where I needed some help from really smart biblical scholars who have studied this stuff. So, what I shared now is kind of a pasted-together information from smarter people than me. And the reason we need that help is because anointing to me at least, sounds very churchy and weird. And so, I want to ask some questions to the text. I want to know what is anointing, who does it, and what does it mean. And I think those are fair questions to ask the Bible. What is it? Who does it? And what’s it mean? So, we’re going to try to answer that.

Number 1, what is it? Anointing is an image. It’s an image that John is using. So, from the time of Moses in the Old Testament, priests and kings were anointed with oil. They had oil poured on their head as a physical representation of their calling to serve, and oil on the head means you are now that role. You are a king, you are a priest, and you continue in that role till you die. You abide in the reality that you were anointed for. Does that make sense so far? Yeah? Good. So, what is it? It’s an image to make us think. Just as a king is anointed by somebody with oil, those who believe that message are also anointed, covered, and given an identity that they continue in, that they abide in forever. So, what is it? It’s an image.

Two, who does it? Well, I want to actually add a question: who is it? First, the anointing is the Spirit. Scholars suggest that the Holy One in that verse is the Holy Spirit. Listen to Jesus in John 14:26 and see if you hear some key words that John repeats in our passage today.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

The anointing received is the Holy Spirit, and the Father does it.

What does it mean? It’s an image. The Father is one who anoints with the Spirit. What does it mean? Well, the anointing means that the Holy Spirit teaches us what’s true and what’s a lie. The Holy Spirit teaches us what’s true and what’s a lie. Those are some pretty radical words John uses there, right? “You have no need anyone should teach you.” Why? Because the Holy Spirit himself is in you talking to you. This demands that the Holy Spirit is a person who interacts with God’s people. “And he will teach you all things.” You all have knowledge. You know what you need to know about who Jesus is. So, the Spirit, the Spirit’s anointing helps us abide. It helps us stay put. As we live, abiding in Christ, amidst the threats of loving the world and antichrist, we have to let the message we’ve heard from the beginning stay in us, we recognize the Spirit’s anointing, and then we are triple protected. We are guarded by the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The message of Jesus abides in us, and we abide in the Son and the Father. The anointing of the Spirit abides in us and teaches us everything we need to know to stay in the truth. John’s primary point in this section is the threat is real; so, abide; stay in what you know; don’t move.

On this day and in this moment, what do we do with all of the antichrist, abiding talk? What do we do with it? Number 1, review your abiding. You can know if you’re abiding. John says so. I don’t say so. John says so. No matter where anybody preaches or teaches in 1 John, you can’t get away from John’s signs of life. His three tests or the street signs that tell you where you abide, where you live. What do you believe about Jesus? Do you believe he is God in the flesh come to save you? If you confess that, do you love your brother? If you confess Jesus, do you do what Jesus tells you to do? And I think it would be great for us to answer that question in our own brains right now. In this moment, this is the most important question. How do you know where you abide? What do you believe about Jesus? Do you love your brother? Do you do what Jesus says? If you don’t know if you’re abiding, then John seems to point to the reality that it’s all about what you believe about Jesus. So, again, it’s still not a mystery for us to figure out how to abide. We believe that Jesus is who he says he is. That comes into us and changes us. So, we review our abiding.

We receive encouragement, receive encouragement. You’ve heard, Peter, if you’ve been here throughout the series, mention a couple of times that a lot of Christians actually do struggle with I John because it’s pretty stark and laid out like this. But everywhere in the book there’s encouragement. 1 John 2:21 that we read today,

“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.”

John is writing to people who know the truth. North Hills, those of you who believe in Jesus, you know the truth. He’s not writing you because you’re ignorant or you need some more knowledge. You actually have all the knowledge you need through the Spirit. Abide in it. Don’t move.

Third, recognize the threats. The world and antichrist are real. I don’t think any of us really would say, “I don’t know. I don’t really struggle with wanting anything in the world.” If that’s you, please teach me how. That’d be awesome. It’s a real threat. Loving the world is a real threat. John says so. Antichrist, not believing what Jesus said about himself, is a real threat. Recognize that. You’re going to face that today.

Number 4, revel in eternity. Now, it would be fair for you at this point to go where in the world did that one come from, Ferguson? And I’ll let you know. John says this.

“This is the promise that he made to us — eternal life.”

So, John says, “abide in what you heard from the beginning, abide in the Spirit’s anointing, abide in that message, and you abide in Jesus today.” But John’s ultimate point is “and you abide forever.” It’s forever abiding that we’re talking about here. And I think it’s really wild that John doesn’t really elaborate on eternal life. He just kind of says, “Hey, by the way, the promise of this whole deal is God’s going to give you eternal life.” And then he moves on to his next point. No great imagery about eternal life! It’s as if John in his brain is thinking the notion of eternal life is big enough, filled with enough motivation to use your imagination about what that could possibly be like in the future, that he doesn’t even have to elaborate. He doesn’t have to go any further than to look at all of us who know the truth and say, “and the promise of God is you get to abide with him forever.” Mike drop, and he moves on. Revel in eternity.

Brothers and sisters, there are some in this congregation who in the past two weeks through loss, through death, have had to wrestle with the fact “is the future brilliant enough in our minds to give us hope today?” If we have a weak view of the future, a weak view of eternity, then the love of the world will only be more powerful. But if there is this rich reality with Jesus forever … I had a talk with my mom two weeks ago. She’s moving. I was down with her. I lost my dad three and a half years ago. Some of you know that. My mom said to me when we were moving, packing stuff for her to move, she goes, “Ryan, I think I have a weird view of heaven that bugs people.” And I was like, “All right, I’m intrigued. Tell me about it, Mom.” And she said, “People try to encourage you when you lose your spouse that they’re waiting for you in heaven. I find that to be so discouraging because if Buzz is actually present with the Lord and sees Jesus face to face, and the first thing that Buzz does is see Jesus and then go, ‘Where’s Judy?’ Then maybe Jesus isn’t really worth it. If Buzz still needs me to be satisfied in heaven, how great is heaven?” And I was just like, “Holy cow, my mom is so much smarter than me.” That’s pretty wild stuff. That’s practical. My mom has this view of being with Jesus that makes sense as to why there’s no marriage in heaven because Jesus is that amazing to her that she’s like, “Yeah, I’ve been with Buzz for fifty-one years, but Jesus!” Revel in eternity. That’s what’s coming. Amen!

So, Jesus prayed a beautiful prayer about abiding and eternal life. So, I would love for you to actually heighten your attention right now if you would do that favor for me, because the words I’m about to use aren’t mine. These are the words of Jesus; so, they have infinite value. This is Jesus’s message on abiding and eternal life and his people who know the truth.

“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…. For I’ve given them the words that you gave me, and they’ve received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I’m praying for them…. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in your truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world …

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, but they all may be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you’ve given me I’ve given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire also, that those whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you’ve given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

The threats are real. Abide in Jesus today and abide in him forever. Amen. Amen.