Today’s passage is quite long, 2 chapters, but much of the theme is a deeper development of the things we looked at yesterday. It rather has the feel of a letter written to people who were living in a time of great persecution and I found myself thinking of countries around the world where it is still illegal to practice Christianity now. Actually, quite a lot of John’s teaching was written to guard people against the teaching of the Gnostics who believed they had a superior knowledge of spiritual things.
John instructs his readers to be careful, to test the spirits, because he knew that many people had been deceived and were teaching false doctrine and perverted forms of the gospel. He also knew how important it was to strengthen and build the church so there is a good deal of instruction on how to go about loving each other. John’s themes were frequently based around a call to look out for evil, to guard against spiritual attack and to love one another. He clearly saw those things as critical messages to put across. Everything else in John’s view springs from those foundations.
So, when we read through chapters 4 and 5 we read his thoughts on overcoming the world which he tells us comes from knowing the God who overcomes. If you know Him then you know His heart and mind and you know what He wants to do in the world. You understand what motivates Him and what saddens Him. Equally we understand the truth – heavenly truth not the earthly, corrupted truth that abounds among us. And, we come to understand that whatever we ask in His name is given to us because being grounded in Him and filled by His spirit means that we’re always going to find ourselves asking for the things that are on God’s heart and not our own.
Reading this letter you can tell that John was a man with a practical background. He was always at pains to give practical advice, guiding people on the best way to live out life as a follower of Jesus. His message is not complicated. ‘Test things to make sure they are what they seem’; ‘Get filled with God’s Spirit so you know His mind’; Look out for people who want to deceive you’; Be sure to love one another.’
Thank you God for good practical advice. Help us to absorb it, to understand it and to live it out for Your glory. Amen.