The human body gives us one of the most awe-inspiring illustrations of a deep biblical truth that all of us should aspire to live out as we seek to be obedient to God’s call upon our lives. Once we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we are placed within the Body of Christ by God. God has created each of us with very special gifts and abilities and placed us within the Body to live out our designed purpose. As we live out our God-ordained purpose God uses us to build and bless the Body and to bring glory and honor to His holy name. Our function within the Body of Christ is much like the function of a cell within our bodies. Let me explain.
From the moment of fertilization the union of the sperm and the egg brings about a remarkable series of events as they begin to divide and reproduce. Written into each cell is its design and purpose contained in the DNA of the cell. The function of the cells within the eye is different than the function of the cells in the liver or brain of kidneys. Let me give you an example. Dr. Paul Brand in his amazing book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, shares with us the complexity of the specialization of the eye cells when he writes,
Inside my human eye there are 107,000,000 cells. Seven million are cones, each loaded to fire off a message to the rain when a few photons of light cross them. Cones give me the full band of color awareness, and because of them I can easily distinguish between a thousand shades of color. The other one hundred million cells are rods, backup cells for us in low light. When only rods are operating, I do not see color (as on a moonlit night when everything looms in shades of gray), but I can distinguish a spectrum of light so broad that the brightest light I perceive is a billion times brighter than the dimmest. (Dr. Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, pg. 23)
Our ability to see with such amazing detail is made possible because of the specialization of the cells within our eyes. The intricate beauty and specialization of the millions of cells within our eyes is matched by the same complexity and intricate design of the other functions of the human body. Each of these billions of specialized cells working together allows you and me to function as living human beings.
If each of the cells is obedient in carrying out the instructions they have been given in their DNA, then we will experience good health and our bodies will function as they were designed to function. On the other hand, if a cell decides to commit mutiny, disregard the instructions it has been given, and forsake its purpose as established by God, then things go awry and trouble sets in.
Cells that decide to do their own thing and disregard their God-ordained purpose cause tumors to grow in our bodies. Dr. Brand says,
A tumor is called benign if its effect is fairly localized and it stays within membrane boundaries. But the most traumatizing condition in the body occurs when disloyal cells defy inhibition. They multiply without any checks on growth, spreading rapidly throughout the body, choking out normal cells. White cells, armed against foreign invaders, will not attack the body’s own mutinous cells. Physicians fear no other malfunction more deeply: it is called cancer. For still mysterious reasons, these cells – and they may be cells from the brain, liver, kidney, bone, blood, skin, or other tissues – grow wild, out of control. Each is a healthy, functioning cell, but disloyal , no longer acting in regard for the rest of the body. Even the white cells, the dependable palace guard, can destroy the body through rebellion. Sometimes they recklessly reproduce, clogging the bloodstream, overloading the lymph system, strangling the body’s normal functions – such is leukemia. (Dr. Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, pg. 59-60)
God did not design the cells of our bodies to declare their independence and do their own thing. He established their design and purpose and wrote it into the very heart of each cell. When tumors, benign or cancerous, take root in our bodies it is because cells have declared a mutiny within our bodies.
The intricate design of God in creating our bodies to work together in harmony and unity is a visible representation of the design of God for the Body of Christ. In our Scripture for today we will take a look at those in the church who John labels as antichrists, “cells” if you will, that have decided to cast aside God’s design and purpose. Turning away from their “spiritual DNA,” they have decided to place themselves in the place of the Lord Jesus and do their own thing. John casts a light upon these mutant teachers who try to deceive the other members of the Body.
18Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist-he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is what he promised us-even eternal life. 26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, remain in him. 28And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. (1 John 2:18-28 NIV)
John begins this important section of his letter by telling his readers that this is the last hour. Immediately our minds begin to think, “John wrote this letter more than 1900 years ago. He must have been wrong.” Before we place our framework for understanding time over John’s statement we need to understand an important biblical truth. The “last days” or the “last hour,” as John says here, is a phrase used to describe the time between Jesus first coming and His final return to gather all of His followers in what is often referred to as the Rapture of the Church.
God seeks to impress upon our hearts that every minute that passes since Jesus took His seat at the right hand of the Father brings us a minute closer to the soon return of Jesus as the Conquering King. John did not hold this understanding alone. Let me give you some other examples from God’s Word.
7The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:7-8 NIV)
3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. (James 5:3 NIV)
3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4 NIV)
18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. (Jude 18 NIV)
These are the last days my friend. We are closer to the return of Jesus right now than any generation in the history of the world. There are many signs given to us in God’s Word to inform us of the last days. Jesus told His followers to keep their eyes open for certain signs that would accompany the time leading up to the end when He would return. In Matthew 24 Jesus said,
4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:4-8 NIV)
Jesus said that many would come in His name claiming to be the Promised One of God. He also said that we would hear of wars and rumors of wars. Jesus said that we would see a rise in nations battling nations. He said to watch for famines and earthquakes in various places. None of these events are the end, but they are the beginnings of birth pangs that will usher in the return of Jesus our Savior. A little further in His instructions to His disciples Jesus told them about the Anti-Christ rise to power in verses 15-25,
15″So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel-let the reader understand-16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again. 22If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-if that were possible. 25See, I have told you ahead of time. (Matthew 24:15-25 NIV)
Many see the events that are happening today and they say, “This is the end!” I’m sure that every generation before us has witnessed events that fall into the parameters of what Jesus told us to look for and in turn they too said, “This is the end!” This fact has led some to conclude that Jesus was wrong and that we can relax, eat, drink, and be merry and forget about all of this “end times” stuff. I would seriously encourage you to refuse to give in to that line of thinking my friend.
One of the facts that I believe separates our generation from all other generations that have gone before us is the rise of false teachers. John says in verse 18,,
18Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
There have been false teachers, or “antichrists,” in every generation, but we have seen, in our lifetime, a proliferation of false teachers like never before. The Watchmen Fellowship Webster maintains files on over 10,000 groups whose teachings fall outside of biblical Christianity. These groups are not limited to religious groups like the Jehovah Witnesses, Scientologists, and Mormons who have gained widespread acceptance in our country even though their theology is skewed and far from the historical faith. There has been a tremendous increase in interest in the occult in our day as you and I can see in the success of movies like The Blair Witch Project, Stigmata, and The Sixth Sense. There is a great battle going on for the hearts, minds, and souls of people all across the world.
John says that the Anti-Christ will come, but that there are already “antichrists” present with us today. You and I need to understand that the Anti-Christ is a person who will one day rise to great power and openly oppose the sovereignty and Lordship of God over all of creation. Apart from this coming envoy of Satan there are many who John calls “antichrists.” The term “anti” means “one who opposes” or “one who places himself in the place of God.” John’s description of these “antichrists” includes the following: (1) they have a faulty understanding of Jesus Christ (1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7); (2) they have no relationship with the Father (1 John 2:23); and (3) they are liars (1 John 2:22) and deceivers (2 John 7). These references to “antichrists” refer primarily to the false teachers who had left the church (v. 19) and were promoting heretical doctrine (4:1).
I want you to notice that the antichrists that John is opposing are coming from the church. These teachers who have set themselves up as the leaders have denied God’s claim on their lives. They are much like the cells that we discussed in the beginning of our study for today. These are gifted people, gifted by God, but they have rejected their place within the Body of Christ, their call to bless and build the Body so that they can do what they want to do.
From what I understand many of these teachers are very gifted. They possess a very dynamic charisma that attracts people to them. They have sharp minds. They know spiritual truth, but they have decided to twist and contort spiritual truth so that it suits their objectives rather than seeking to be obedient to God’s will.
Out of all of these antichrists that either oppose God or use God’s Word to accomplish their own agendas there is one that I am most familiar with – Rev. Jim Jones. Many people know the tragic story of Jonestown where over 900 people drank Kool Aid laced with poison and committed a mass suicide. The story has left etched in the minds of many people an image of a man who is a demon. Someone who is sub-human and the embodiment of evil. This is certainly a correct estimation of Jim Jones last days, but I can tell you that this characterization of Jim Jones’ life early on is far from the truth.
When Jim Jones began preaching the Gospel he was a man who was sold out to the Kingdom of God. He taught the Bible with passion and conviction. God worked through him to build a church that reached out to the poor, to people of all races, and he sought to teach them the deep truths of God. He was such a dynamic leader that political leaders in Los Angeles tagged him as the answer to man of the social problems going on in Los Angeles. He served his community as a volunteer working with city officials in planning housing units and restoring blighted communities in Los Angeles.
There came a day in Jim Jones life, and I don’t know when it happened, that he placed himself and his desires over those of his Master and Lord. >From that day forth it was all downhill. Jim Jones began to take advantage of women in his congregation, he became paranoid thinking that others were out to get him, and he eventually moved his entire congregation to Guyana where most of them followed him to his death.
Leaders like Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marsh Applewhite of the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult, and many, many others are so dangerous because they use God’s Word to try and lure very sincere folks away from God. These teachers come from within the Church and that is why John lets it be known that the Body needs to be aware. John says in verse 19,
19They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
John says that their leaving was an act of God to show the true believers that they were not of God. One of the most prevalent teachings in God’s Word is the unity of the Body. In every book of the Bible we find God encouraging us to stick together, to stay put, to work out our differences, and to love each other with an everlasting, enduring love.
The reason for God’s emphasis on the Body of Christ working together and staying together is this: God builds the church, His Body, to accomplish His will. You may think that you have come to Britton Christian Church because you want to, but I will tell you that God has led you here, gifted you in specific ways, and set you within this Body of believers to bless and build as you bring glory and honor to His name. As long as I understand how God has gifted me, and what He has called to do in this Body, then I am to do it. I am to be faithful to God’s call upon my life. I may not always like what happens. I may not like the sermon some Sunday or the fact that the church doesn’t have this or that or that the Stewardship Committee doesn’t give enough money to what I think is important. I may want to leave this church and find some church where everything is perfect, where I will never have a conflict with anyone, and where everyone will appreciate me, but there is no biblical precedent for God leading me away from His call for these reasons.
With that said a word of caution needs to be offered. If you or I are led by God to the fellowship of a church and God’s Word is not being preached, the message of the Gospel is being compromised, then we are advised by God to leave.
The difference between you and me and these antichrists that John is speaking about is that they were in the church for their own purposes. They wanted to deceive the people in the congregation and turn them towards their way of thinking. They did not want to live out God’s call upon their lives. When they did not get their way, when the people did not buy into their deceptive teachings, then they left. John says that this was God’s way of exposing them for who they really were.
John contrasts the antichrists with the faithful brothers and sisters who are still in the church by saying in verses 20-24,
20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist-he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.
There are two things that distinguish the true believers of John’s church from the antichrists: First, the anointing of the brothers and sisters sets them apart from those who refuse to live in obedience to God’s will. It is the anointing of the Lord that keeps them from error and departing from genuine faith. Secondly, the Holy Spirit teaches us. Jesus said in John 14,
26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIV)
13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:13-15 NIV)
We can give praise and honor to God that He has provided for us His Holy Spirit to lead us into knowing His truth and leading us away from error. If it were not for the Holy Spirit then all of us would eventually wander into error and find ourselves living apart from the faith.
The great error that so many are being led into today is the belief that Jesus was a very good man, a fine teacher, a wonderfully moral man who is worthy of being a cultural icon for chastity and character. Jesus did not leave the glory of His Heavenly home and come to earth so that He could be known as a morally upright man. He came to save those who were lost – you and me. Any teaching that fails to exalt Jesus Christ as God, the Savior of the world, is a teaching that has left the faith. Anyone who says that Jesus is a Son of God, but that there is more than one way to eternal salvation is a false teacher.
John says that he is writing these things to the brothers and sisters for very specific reasons. John says,
26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, remain in him. 28And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.
John points out a very important lesson for us when he says that we do not need anyone to teach us. John doesn’t mean that we should turn away from opportunities to learn from Bible teachers. He wants to impress upon the readers that they are not dependent upon these human teachers – the Holy Spirit will lead them into all truth.
The Holy Spirit is the Teacher of all followers of Jesus. I come to this sanctuary each Sunday to share with you only what the Holy Spirit has taught me during the week. I sit in the Bible classes that I teach and I share only what the Holy Spirit has taught me. I have no ability to learn of God’s ways apart from the Holy Spirit. College degrees do not legitimize one’s teaching abilities when it comes to things of God. Years of study do not empower someone to teach with authority and truthfulness if they are teaching their own thoughts and ideas. Only the Holy Spirit can equip and enable a man or woman to teach the deep truths of God’s Word.
The reason why John is so reliant upon the Holy Spirit when it comes to understanding the things of God is because it was common knowledge to the followers of Jesus that the things of the Spirit could not be known by human effort. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians,
14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV)
When we are confronted with spiritual truth and we try to think things through according to our understanding we will always miss the boat. When we are told that Jesus died for our sins it simply doesn’t make any sense. We’ve never heard of anything like this before and it just goes right over our heads. When we are taught from God’s Word the important teachings of Jesus we fail to understand when we use our frame of understanding. Things like “if you want to be great you must become the servant of all,” “blessed are the poor in spirit,” or “you must be born again” – simply do not make sense. These truths are the opposite of what the world teaches us. The only way that you and I can come to appreciate and stand in awe of God’s ways is to bow our knee and say, “Not my will O Lord, but Your will is what I desire.”
How about you? What do you desire this morning? I pray that you have heard the voice of God calling you this morning. I hope that you will beware of the myriad of false teachers in our society who will seek to lead you astray. I hope and pray that this morning will be the morning that you invite Jesus to come into your heart.