1 John 3.21-4.6

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1 John 3:21-4:6

21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;
3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.
6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.


-Pilate: “What is truth?”

-Webster’s: That which is real and verifiable by experience.

-What’s wrong with that definition? (Experience? What of faith?)

-Truth in the absolute sense of that which is real and complete as opposed to what is false and wanting (Mk. 5:33; Eph. 4:25). The Christian faith in particular is the truth (Gal. 2:5; Eph. 1:13). Jesus claimed that he was truth personified (Jn. 14:6; Eph. 4:21). He mediates the truth (Jn. 1:17) and the Holy Spirit leads men into it (Jn. 16:13;  14:17; 1 Jn. 4:6), so that Jesus’ disciples know it (Jn. 8:32; 2 Jn. 1), do it (Jn. 3:21), abide in it (Jn. 8:44), and their new birth as God’s children rests upon it (Jas. 1:18). This truth is more than a credal formula, it is God’s active word which must be obeyed (Rom. 2:8; Gal. 5:7).


-How does the world define truth?

-How is truth discerned in the text?  (Love, Obedience, Theology)

-“Test the spirits”:

-I Thess 5:19-22 “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances; but examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

-2 Cor 13:5 “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test.”

-Gal 6:3-5 “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.  For each one shall bear his own load.”

-I Cor 11:27-28 “Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.”


A.  –“The problem that the early Christians encountered was that as the gospel of Jesus Christ was presented throughout the Mediterranean world there were people who were fascinated by the message but who then sought to draw the message about Christ into their own philosophical framework (worldview!). In effect they would take possession of the name and some of the teaching of Christ, but then redefine and recast these Christian elements so that they would harmonize with the point of view into which these persons were already settled. The result was a domesticated Christianity. It would be as if a person who had already decided upon the main motivational influences of his life then reached out to the Christian faith in order to support the position he already held. Jesus Christ would be incorporated insofar as He agreed with the previously decided position; where disagreements arose He would be either ignored or redefined. (Witnessing at Toro to Laotians)

But the more serious threat to the integrity of the gospel was occurring from the Greek side of the Roman world. It posed the danger of the spiritualization of the Christian faith. Many in the Greek world wanted to escape from what they saw as the inferior physical existence of the earth and the body into the superior spiritual realm of reality. They were basically elitist in outlook; they were basically escapist in goal. Both of these outlooks are on a collision course with the realism and the universality of the gospel. But the most fundamental collision point has to do with the understanding of the center of the gospel, Jesus Christ Himself. They want a form of salvation that is not salvation at all; they want their “redeemer” to assist them toward a spiritual escape from the real world; they want to be dazzled by overwhelming spiritual experiences.


1.  2 Corinthians 10:5: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

2.  Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

3.  1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

4.  Eph 1:17 "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him." There must be knowledge of Christianity in order to live it out.

III.  TODAY (Taken primarily from

-A return to the days of Noah.  “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.”


Consider the story of three baseball umpires.

-One said, “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call ‘em the way they are.” Another said, “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call ‘em the way I see ‘em.” And the third umpire said, “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and they ain’t nothing until I call them.”

-Their three different views of balls and strikes correspond with three different views of truth. The first is what we might call premodernism. This is a God-centered view of the universe that believes in divine revelation. Most of the ancient world had this view of true and believed that truth is absolute (“I call ‘em the way they are”). By the time of the Enlightenment, Western culture was moving into a time of modernism. This view was influenced by the scientific revolution, and began to reject a belief in God. In this period, truth is relative (“I call ‘em the way I see ‘em”). Today we live in what many call postmodernism. In this view, there is a complete loss of hope for truth. Truth is not discovered; truth is created (“they ain’t nothing until I call them”).

-A student said "there is no absolute truth". When asked if he was absolutely sure, he said, “Absolutely.” What's wrong with that?  So he essentially said that he absolutely believed there was no absolute truth, except the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth!

-Various religions and religious groups make competing truth claims, so they cannot all be true. "Discerning Truth From Error"-discuss.

-For example, God is either personal or God is impersonal. If God is personal then Judaism, Christianity, and Islam could be true. But the eastern religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) are false. Either Jesus is the Messiah or He is not. If He is the Messiah then Christianity is true, and Judaism is false. We used to live in a society that believed in “Truth” (with a capital T). This has now been replaced by a new word with a capital T. And that is the word “Tolerance.”

-We are told to tolerate every view and value. Why is this impossible?

In a humorous short article in which he highlighted some of the silly beliefs people hold today, Steve Turner wrote, “We believe that all religions are basically the same, at least the one we read was. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation sin heaven hell God and salvation.”

It is the common belief today that all religions are basically the same. They may look different—they may differ with respect to holy books or forms of worship or specific ideas about God—but at the root they’re pretty much the same. That idea has become so deeply rooted that it is considered common knowledge. To express doubt about it draws an incredulous stare. Obviously, anyone who thinks one religion is the true one is close-minded and benighted! More than that, the person is clearly a bigot who probably even hates people of other religions (or people with no religion at all).

-In America, we’re getting to the point where all paths lead to God except true Christianity!


You’ve probably heard the term “cafeteria-style” religion. This is the religion of “a little of this and a little of that.” I saw this illustrated in a story published a few years ago about a young woman who had been a Methodist but became a Baptist after studying Baptist theology. She’d clearly put some thought into her decision which I applauded. However, it turned out that, along with her Baptist doctrines, she also held the belief that Christianity isn’t necessarily true for everyone. She was mixing Christian doctrine with a postmodern attitude about the nature of truth. Christians mix in a variety of false beliefs with true doctrine. Some Christians read horoscopes and take them somewhat seriously. Some base their ethical decision-making on what works. Some believe in reincarnation. And some, like the woman I mentioned, believe Jesus isn’t the only way to God.

A sociology professor asked her students, "How many of you believe abortion is wrong? Stand up." Five students stood. She told them to continue standing. She then asked, "Of you five, how many believe it is wrong to distribute condoms in middle schools?" One was left standing. The professor left this godly young lady standing in silence for a long time and then told her she wanted to talk with her after class. During that meeting the student was told if she persisted in such beliefs she would have a great deal of difficulty receiving her certification as a social worker.

During the first meeting of an architecture class at a large state university the students were told to lie on the floor. The professor then turned off the lights and taught them to meditate. (Be assured they were not meditating on Scripture.)

At a church-related university a professor stated, "Communism is definitely superior to any other political-economic system."

In an open declaration on the campus at Harvard, the university chaplain announced he is homosexual.

When asked how he responds to students who confess strong Christian convictions, a professor stated, "If they don't know what and why they believe, I will change them."

In a university dormitory crowded with over 100 students I declared that Jesus is the only way to God. Many of the students expressed their strong disagreement and anger. One student was indignant because he realized my statement concerning Christ logically meant that his belief in a Native American deity was wrong. Even some Christian students were uncomfortable. (WHY?) They had uneasiness about it because it seemed too intolerant.

For instance, how would you answer these questions if someone who really wants to know asked them of you? "Is there really a God?" "Why believe in miracles?" "How accurate is the Bible?" "Is Christ the only way to God?" "Is there any truth in other religions?"

If I were to ask you what our culture deemed more valuable, truth or tolerance, what would you say? We are all tolerant of others.  But why is tolerance alone so destructive?  (Any moral standard necessitates intolerance of anything which violates that standard. Merely using the phrase "a moral standard of tolerance" is a contradiction in terms. ("You shall not lie." eg)  In S. D. Gaede's words, "If you are intolerant of someone who is intolerant, then you have necessarily violated your own principle. But if you tolerate those who are intolerant, you keep your principle, but sacrifice your responsibility to the principle." Consequently, a person who is wholly committed to tolerance, must resort to total apathy.

The notion that tolerance is a virtue is a paradox. Nevertheless, it has become the dominant moral guideline for our culture.)

To emphasize the purpose for the question, consider the following three illustrations.

Case 1. Recently, I had a conversation with a young man about Christianity. He listened closely to what I had to say about how Jesus Christ had saved me from my sin, but immediately became very defensive when I tried to suggest that he too had that same need for Christ as his Savior. He explained to me that because we live in a pluralistic society, all religions are equally valid roads to God. "You're just being too closed-minded," he said. "Jesus works for you, just like Buddha works for someone else. So if you want people to respect what you have to say, you need to be more tolerant of beliefs unlike your own."

Case 2. Last year, a dean at Stanford University began to pressure evangelical Christian groups on campus to stop the practice of "proselytizing other students." Ironically, what angered the dean was not the content of the message that was being shared, but the practice of sharing itself. He believes that in approaching someone with the Gospel, you are implying that the person's beliefs are inferior to your own. Such an implication is unacceptable because it is self-righteous, biased, and intolerant.

Case 3. Graduate student Jerome Pinn checked into his dormitory at the University of Michigan to discover that the walls of his new room were covered with posters of nude men and that his new roommate was an active homosexual who expected to have partners in the room. Pinn approached the Michigan housing office requesting that he be transferred to another room. Listen to Pinn's own description of what followed: "They were outraged by this [request]. They asked me what was wrong with me--what my problem was. I said that I had a religious and moral objection to homosexual conduct. They were surprised; they couldn't believe it. Finally, they assigned me to another room, but they warned me that if I told anyone of the reason, I would face university charges of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."{1} In their mind, Jerome had no right to a new room because he was being intolerant.

Notice that in each of these scenarios, Christians are not accused of "false teaching," but of "false practice." The truth is not challenged, but the legitimacy of making the claims in the first place is challenged.

In response to a survey concerning beliefs about God, a sixteen-year-old girl replied, "In my mind, the only people who are wrong are the people who will not accept different beliefs as being, well, acceptable." This girl believed that the only real sin is to not accept or tolerate other people's beliefs. Likewise, openness or "uncritical tolerance" has become our society's moral standard. Consequently, people who seem intolerant are wrong.

"It is morally wrong to say that something is morally wrong."   But is tolerance a moral virtue? By definition, the function of tolerance is relegated to the legal and social arena in order to protect moral issues, not enforce them. As a result, talking about tolerance as a moral virtue is a circular argument.


The Christian view of truth is a belief in truth that is true for all people at all times: absolute truth. The western world used to believe that all truth was God's truth. After the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which produced the byword "Man is the measure of all things," truth became secular. People believed that there is a body of real truth "out there" that can discovered through our reason. God was no longer a part of it.


Now we've moved to the postmodern view of truth. There is no such thing as "true truth," nothing that is true for all people at all times. Truth is now what I make it. Truth is whatever works for me. I create truth based on my feelings and experience.

So when we say things like "The only way to heaven is by trusting Jesus Christ," we get responses like, "You narrow minded bigot!" and "That may be true for you, but it's not true for me." And the classic postmodern response to just about anything: "Whatever!"

-What is truth?


-Moral relativism is the belief that morality is relative to the person. In other words, there is no set of rules that universally applies to everyone (also Situation Ethics). In a sense, moral relativism can be summed up with the phrase: “It all depends.” Is murder always wrong? Relativists would say, “It depends on the circumstances.” Is adultery wrong? They would say, “It just depends on whether you are caught.”  Essentially, all moral questions can be summed up with the phrase: Who are you to say?

-I confronted a Christian woman cheating on her husband… 

-What would you say to her?

Moral relativism is also self-defeating. People who say they believe in relativism cannot live consistently within their ethical system. Moral relativists make moral judgments all the time. They speak out against racism, exploitation, genocide, and much more. I point out the problem with cultural relativism.{2} If ethics are relative to each culture, then anyone outside the culture loses the right to critique it. Essentially that was the argument of the Nazi leaders during the Nuremberg Trials. What right do you have to criticize what we did within Nazi Germany? We had our own system of morality. Fortunately, the judges and Western society rejected such a notion.

Second, one cannot critique morality from the inside. Cultural relativism leaves no place for social reformers. The abolition movement, the suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement are all examples of social movements that ran counter to the social circumstances of the culture. Reformers like William Wilberforce or Martin Luther King Jr. stood up in the midst of society and pointed out immoral practices and called society to a moral solution. Abolishing slavery and fighting for civil rights were good things even if they were opposed by many people within society.

-Because of the popularity of postmodernism, people are reading literature (including the Bible) differently than before. Literary interpretation uses what is called “postmodern deconstruction.” Not only is this used in English classes on high school and college campuses, it is being applied to biblical interpretation.

Many Christians no longer interpret the Bible by what it says. Instead, they interpret the Bible by asking what the passage means to them. Is this wrong? Why? (Many applications, but only one interpretation. Feelings are more important than truth.) While biblical application is important, we must first begin by understanding the intent of the author. Once that principle goes out the window, proper biblical interpretation is in jeopardy.

Dr. Jeff Myers of Bryan College suggests four "killer questions" to help anyone think critically.{1} The first question is, What do you mean by that? In other words, define your terms. The second question is, Where do you get your information? The third is, How do you know that's true?, and the fourth killer question is, What if you're wrong?


Dr. Myers tells this story:

"A friend took a group of third graders to the Denver Museum of Natural History.

Before he took them inside, he knelt down on their level and said, 'Kids, if anybody in this museum tells you anything, I want you to ask them, how do you know that's true?' Giving this question to a third grader is the intellectual equivalent of giving them a surface-to-air missile. These kids walked into the museum; all they knew was, Ask: How do you know that's true?

"A paleontologist was going to show them how to find a fossil. Apparently they had intentionally buried a fossil down in the soil sample and she said, 'We're going to find it.' Very clever, right? No, not with this crowd. 'Cause they started asking questions like, 'Well, how do you know there's a fossil down in there?' 'Well, because we just know there's a fossil down there.' 'Why do you want to find it?' 'Well, because we want to study it.' 'Why do you want to study it?' 'We want to find out how old it is.' Well, how old do you think it is?' 'About 60 million years old.'

'Lady, how do you know that is true?'

"She patronized them. She said, 'Well, you see, I'm a scientist, I study these things, I just know that.' They said, 'Well, how do you know that's true?' Anytime she said anything at all they just asked, 'How do you know that's true?' What happened next proves that truth is stranger than fiction. She threw down her tools, glared at these children, and said, 'Look, children, I don't know, OK? I just work here!'"


1.  Absolute Truth:  According to the Barna Report, 66% of the entire population believe "there is no such thing as absolute truth." Another poll estimated that 72% of Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five also reject the notion of absolutes.{6} So what do the majority of Americans believe? Well, without absolutes, they are left with moral relativism: the notion that all values are legitimate, and that it is impossible to judge between them. Truth is reduced to personal preference; what's true is what works for you.

The assumption that truth is relative has infiltrated almost every facet of our society: the marketplace, the arts, government, education, family, and even religion. According to a poll, 88% of evangelical Christians claim that the "Bible is the written word of God and is totally accurate in all it teaches," and yet 53% also believe there are no absolutes.{7} Ironic?

The Barna Research Group conducted a national survey of adults and concluded that only 4 percent of adults have a biblical worldview as the basis of their decision-making. The survey also discovered that 9 percent of born again Christians have such a perspective on life.{1}

One of the foundational aspects of a Christian worldview is the matter of absolute truth. The Bible rests upon belief in it. Yet surveys by George Barna show that a minority of born again adults (44 percent) and an even smaller proportion of born again teenagers (9 percent) are certain of the existence of absolute moral truth.{4}

Even more disturbing is the growing evidence that even adults have abandoned their belief in absolute truth. By a three-to-one margin adults say truth is always relative to the person and their situation. This perspective is even more lopsided among teenagers who overwhelmingly believe moral truth depends on the circumstances.{5}

When asked the basis on which they form their moral choices, nearly half of all adults cite their desire to do whatever will bring them the most pleasing or satisfying results. Although the Bible should be the basis of our moral decision-making, the survey showed that only four out of every ten born again Christian adults relies on the Bible or church teaching as their primary source of moral guidance.{9}

“Moral values are subjective and personal. They are the right of each individual. Individuals should be allowed to conduct life as they choose as long as it does not interfere with the lives of others.” The Nehemiah Institute found that seventy-five percent of youth agreed with this statement.

Back in 1994, the Barna Research Group conducted a survey of churched youth for Josh McDowell. Now remember, we are talking about young people who regularly attend church. They found that of these churched youth, fifty-seven percent could not say that an objective standard of truth exists. They also found that eighty-five percent of these same churched youth reason that “just because it’s wrong for you doesn’t mean its wrong for me.”

-More to the point, they hold these contradictory ideas because they do not have a firm belief in absolute truth. If truth is personal and not objective, then there is no right decision and each person should do what is right for him or her.


-"Why do you get up in the morning?"

That's a question Steven Garber likes to ask college students. It might sound like a rather silly question at first. We get up in the morning because there are things to be done that won't get done if we lie in bed all day. But Garber wants to know something more important. What are the things that lie ahead of us that make it worth getting out of bed? What do we intend to accomplish? Are our ambitions for the day worthy ones? More importantly, How do they fit with our view of life, or our worldview?

-2 Kings 22:8  Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.”…Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.


Pilate: “What is truth?”

1 John 3:21-4:6


-How does the world define truth?

-Webster’s: That which is _____________________________________by experience.

-What’s wrong with that definition?


-How is truth discerned in the text?

-I Thess 5:19-22; 2 Cor 13:5; Gal 6:3-5; I Cor 11:27-28


A. The Mediterranean World:  _________________________________

      The Greek Side: 

B.  SCRIPTURE:                      _________________________________

1.  2 Corinthians 10:5

2.  Colossians 2:8

3.  1 Peter 3:15

4.  Eph 1:17

III.  TODAY (taken primarily from

Consider the story of three baseball umpires.

1. “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call ‘em the way they are.”

         Truth is ________________________________

2.  “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call ‘em the way I see ‘em.”

         Truth is ________________________________

3.  “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and they ain’t nothing until I call them.”

         Truth is not ___________________________. It is ______________________.

-A student said "there is no absolute truth". When asked if he was absolutely sure, he said,  _____________________________.


-"Caféteria-style" religion

-Truth or Tolerance?

-"It is morally wrong to say that something is morally wrong."

-"Why do you get up in the morning?"

-2 Kings 22:8  Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.”…Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.

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