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True or False?


Keeping in Stride

Like you, I took a lot of tests during school. Back in the day there were six kinds of questions that faculty members would utilize to measure learning. There were true or false, multiple choice, matching, fill in the blank, short answer and essay. Some instructors or courses designed tests that could measure objective or factual knowledge while others preferred a more subjective approach.

I was never a good test taker, partially because I had a hard time focusing during class and partially because I over analyzed every question. As I think about it now, I probably should have relied on my gut when in doubt instead of parsing every single word in a given question.

True or false questions were the worst. Let me give you an example. True or false: there are 3 outs in an inning of baseball. Your first response may be to answer “true,” but then you would be wrong. The correct answer is false because there are 6 outs in an inning of baseball.

Last weekend’s message was titled, “True or False?” and dealt with one of the more challenging sections of 1 John. Check this out:

Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come. These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us. But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth. So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know the difference between truth and lies. And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.
I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spiriti teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ
(1 John 2:18-27, NLT).

The problem John addressed centered around false teachers who were circulating heresy within the church. They were teaching that Jesus Christ was less than divine…that he had not come in the flesh. They taught that Jesus was born as a man and that he became “the Christ” at his baptism. At his crucifixion, he ceased being the Christ and died as any human would. End of story.

How did John counsel his congregation? First, he challenged them to remain faithful to what they had been taught. To me, this speaks of the importance of the teaching ministry of the church. The early church was devoted to two things: preaching the gospel and teaching doctrine. Their teaching was purposeful and intentional, a strategy that was rooted from the earliest days of Judaism (cf. Deuteronomy 4:4-6). One of my concerns about the 21st century church is that we have abandoned these two practices in favor of addressing felt needs. Instead of saying important things we have settled to merely be interesting. We can no longer afford to neglect these matters. Failure to do so will continue to foster the crippling spiritual anemia among our ranks.

John’s second word of advice was for the true Christians to listen to the Holy Spirit and depend on him to be the true teacher. The end of the above cited text recalls Jesus’ strong words from John 14:26, where he said, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” Yes, churches should continue to be spiritual resources and provide ample opportunities for members to learn. But in addition to teaching sound doctrine, we should equip our members to mine their own gold. Few things are more enriching than picking up a Bible and digging into God’s truth for yourself as the Holy Spirit speaks to you. As you study or interact with others concerning God’s truth, that “still small voice” will resonate when its right and sound the alarm when its off the beaten path.

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