This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original videohere
Real or fake – there are two flowers hanging here and one of them is real, the other isn’t.
What do you think, which one is real?
When we were on vacation in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains near Dresden last year, we spent a day hiking across the border in the Czech Republic.
There are a lot of Vietnamese who have their stands with clothes, shoes, watches and other things. All the most expensive brands, but dirt cheap and therefore probably not genuine.
Again and again, companies have to struggle with product piracy, where other companies from abroad, mostly from China, very brazenly counterfeit their products, which then look so similar that they can hardly be distinguished by the consumer.
At the checkout I wanted to pay with a bill that wasn’t real because I hadn’t noticed. Fortunately, I was able to prove relatively easily that I had not printed this banknote myself.
In recent years, the word ” fake news” hasFashion, because many messages circulated and circulate that are not true. In general, pictures have a very big effect on us, and not only from the news but also, for example, on our ideal of beauty. Here’s a model , but it’s all staged, post-processed and not real. And on the Internet there are also pictures of influencers from vacation, on the most beautiful beaches alone with the brightest sunset, and in reality there are
thousands of other people around and the sunset was rather lousy.
And sometimes we fool each other a lot, which is not at all true. Sometimes it’s not all that easy to tell apart. What is real and what is fake ?
This is also the case in faith.
There is a real faith and a fake faith. If you look on the Internet, of course also in books, you will find a lot of different teachings and also a lot of false teachings.
The letters of John, there are three of which we want to focus on the 1st in our new series, deal with this question.
The purpose of 1 John is precisely to encourage believers in their faith and to give them the tools to distinguish between real and fake faith.
I wrote you these things to assure you that you have eternal life; you believe in Jesus as the Son of God.
John writes that there is eternal life in fellowship with God. But the question is how do we get there. And that’s a good question that affects us all.
If there is such a thing as eternal life after life, how do I get there? And to do that, it’s important to know what real faith is, so that we don’t miss the mark in the end.
The disciple John wrote his letters to the house churches in Ephesus because their situation was very similar.
Ephesus is in present-day Turkeyand was at that time one of the most important, and with probably more than 200,000 inhabitants, also one of the largest cities of the Roman Empire.
On his 2nd missionary journey, Paul passed through Ephesus for the first time and on his 3rd missionary journey, he stayed there for a full three years. A real revival broke out and some house churches sprang up. House churches because it was so common back then that people met at home, and when a congregation grew and became too big for the living room, they split up and opened the next house church. All together formed the church in Ephesus.
Paul put Timothy there as a leader who met with the leaders of the house churches and they consulted and ran this network and they knew each other too.
After Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, the disciple John also came to Ephesus.
As we read these letters, it is very exciting to keep in mind who these disciples are. In the gospels he is nicknamed, together with his brother James: the sons of thunder. They once wanted to set fire to a city and argued about who was the greatest among them.
But this disciple also goes through a very big change because of his closeness to Jesus. Later he is referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one who lay on his breast at the supper, as depicted in Leonardo da Vinci’s famous picture, the apostle of love, but this does not prevent John from giving his letter in all writes with clarity and clarity.
John lived and worked in and around Ephesus and was later banished to the island of Patmos, which is a bit offshore in the Mediterranean, because the church was a thorn in the side of the emperor and John was identified as the central figure.
There he then writes the revelation. John is the last living disciple at the time, so 2nd and 3rd John begin with the words “From the oldest”-
The letters are all written about AD 95, before the time of the banishment, and John is probably on his way. You can see that very nicely in 2nd and 3rd John, which go to targeted people, and now he’s writing to the house churches. Because during this time a lot of false teachings arise in Ephesus.
In Ephesus there was a large library, the Celsus library, here is a picture, it was built later.But it does show that the Ephesians were well-read and placed great value on doctrine. They liked to spend time listening to the latest news and philosophizing around. And so it’s no wonder that the argument about the right doctrine happened in Ephesus, because there were also many other doctrines there and Ephesus as a city was the key to all the other communities around due to its influence.
These other teachings, which found their way into the communities there, are referred to as Gnosis and reach their peak later around 200 AD.
This was not a unified movement, there were also differences in parts, but they took elements from the Greek philosophy of Plato and what was common to all of them was that they saw everything earthly, material as inferior.
The spirit of man was important for Gnosis, and that man had to liberate himself from earthly elements, conquer a higher spiritual level and thereby recognize that he himself is divine.
This happened through knowledge – the word gnosis means to recognize, but had less to do with knowledge than with mystical experiences.
Logically, this movement denied that God really became man in Jesus and thus also that he died on the cross for the guilt of man and rose again.
It is also inconceivable that Jesus would give up his divinity, that he would do it out of love for us and come into such a human body that is limited, where it pinches and tweaks.
But isn’t that often the reason for heresies, that we can’t understand it, that we can’t believe what it says in the Bible and then try to explain it humanely?
These heresies, they confuse believers and confuse them so much that they no longer know what to believe and whether what they have is really faith.
There have already been separations, some have lost their faith, we read that in 1 Timothy 6:20-21, where Paul warns Timothy:
Carefully guard what God has entrusted to you! Keep away from all ungodly gossip and empty talk of people with their supposedly new knowledge. Some have already lost faith because they have accepted it.
So what should we do when we see false doctrine?Keep us away!
The letters of John are something like a pamphlet against this Gnosis, which confuses believers. Therefore one of the central words is the truth:
But what is the truth, what is the true teaching, what does the life of a true believer look like.
And the 1st letter of John gives us 4 points of reference:
I’ll spoiler a bit now.
First of all, it’s about the right content, that’s what we’re dealing with today: Jesus the way.
And then it’s about real life:
Living in the light because God is light, that is, about our dealings with sin and obedience,
and life in love, to the neighbor and to God or to the world, because God is love.
This is also the structure of the letter.
As you read, however, you will notice that the topics repeat themselves more often. That’s because John is a Hebrew and they approach a topic in circles, so they always pick it up from another side and continue it. Therefore we will not go through the letter chronologically in our sermon series, but will take up the individual topics, because we think more in Greek terms and that is arranged linearly.
All the core ideas of this letter come from Jesus’ last sermon John 13-17
That’s why John also writes: I’m not telling you anything new, but it’s about becoming aware of these things and then also living them.
So this series gives you the tools to not just take what others want to tell you about faith, which is so important to staying on the right path
But this series also challenges you to question yourself: What about my beliefs, is it fake or real?
We begin today with the question of the content of faith and to do this we mainly deal with the beginning of the letter, the end of the letter and two sections from 1 John chapters 2 and 4 .
John identifies what is going on in Ephesus and warns:
There are false teachings and false teachers
Children, the last hour is here. You have heard that before the end there will come an antichrist, the Antichrist, and in the meantime many such enemies of Christ have appeared, as corresponds to this announcement. By this we know that the last hour has come. Although these enemies of Christ attended our meetings in the past, they were not really ours. If they had been with us, they would have stayed with us. But they separated from us, and it became clear that ultimately none of them belong to us.
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims that their message was inspired by God’s Spirit, but check whether what they are saying really comes from God. Because in this world numerous lying prophets are now spreading their false teachings.
John writes that false teachers and so-called antichrists have appeared in the last time.
Anti comes from the Greek and means against, i.e. anti-Christ, but it also means “in place of”. So people who put themselves in the place of Jesus or teachings that put themselves in the place of the good news of the Bible.
The Bible makes it clear that behind all this is God’s adversary, the devil.
He is called a murderer, a liar, a mess -maker . And that’s what false teachings do.
His goal is to confuse people, to lead them away from God and thus also to prevent other people from discovering the true faith. Because he doesn’t want God to get the glory and he doesn’t want people to live the full life that God wants them to have.
And so he seduces people who in turn seduce other people.
At the end of time there will be the Antichrist, who so to speak combines evil, and where people have to make a clear decision for or against the God of the Bible, but until then there are many different people who behave in an antichristian manner.
And there are different types:
On the one hand people who are extremely cruel.
People who persecute Christians for their beliefs and try to force them to stray from their path.
For there will be some who claim to be the promised savior or a prophet. They will mark themselves by great and spectacular miracles.
So people who promise you if you follow me then you will get peace, you will have a good life, I will show you the way to salvation. Sometimes even with signs and wonders.
And these false teachers, as Johannes writes, can sometimes even come from their own ranks. They were there the whole time, but something creeps in and eventually they break up. And then they teach a false Jesus and a false gospel.
That is why John asks us to examine everything.
But what is at the core of our belief?
Jesus is the way
Let’s take a look at the beginning and the end of the letter, because there we find the core statements of John’s message:
It was there from the very beginning; we have heard it and seen it with our own eyes, we have looked at it and touched it with our hands – the word of life. Yes, life has appeared; we can attest to that. We have seen it and we declare it to you – the eternal life that was with the Father and has appeared among us. And why do we tell you what we have seen and heard? We want you to be connected to us – even more: that you experience together with us what it means to be connected to the Father and to his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing you this letter so that all of us, you and us, may experience to the fullest the joy that God gives us.
We know that the Son of God came and opened our eyes to see the one who is the truth. We are connected to Him, the true God, because we are connected to His Son, Jesus Christ. This is himself the true God; he is eternal life. My dear children, beware of false gods!
The core of the Christian faith is not a theory, not a philosophy, not a doctrine, but a person.
He is life.
He is the eternal life that was there from the beginning with the Father,
therefore not created, but God himself.
who came into this world, a man of flesh and blood , it says in chapter 4:2
and in 2 John that he is also the one who will come again one day.
Johannes writes: We heard, saw, looked at and touched him.
The Gospel of John is also written in this way
The beginning sounds a bit philosophical “In the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word became flesh” because it deals exactly with the teaching of Gnosis.
Jesus is God from the beginning and became a real man of flesh and blood.
There were people, especially in the first centuries after Christ, who said Jesus was just God and others who said he was an ordinary man.
In 451 AD there was a great council, the Council of Chalcedon, at which all the theologians of that time came together and formulated at the end:
“One and the same is Christ, the only-begotten Son and Lord, known in two natures unmixed, unchanging, undivided, and indivisible,
In short: Jesus is true man and true God
Why is this even important?
Why is it important that Jesus was human?
We read in the letter to the Hebrews that Jesus, because he was human, can suffer with us and understand us.
He knows what it means to be a child, a teenager, to go to school and learn, to obey one’s parents, to work, to be single, to be away from home as a refugee, to have friends and to be inspired by them in the To be abandoned, to be close to God and to be forsaken by God.
He knows what it means to suffer, to be in pain and to die.
He knows what the situation you’re in means to you.
He knows your feelings that you are going through because he went through them himself.
And he cares.
He doesn’t care about you.
And you can know when you come to him, he understands you.
John writes again and again about the great love of God, which is shown in the fact that Jesus came to this earth.
Only as a human could he fulfill the law of God and, as a sinless, perfect sacrifice, pay the price for our sins and seal a new covenant with his blood on the cross that God makes with us.
That everyone who accepts the forgiveness of their sins, that Jesus died for them and begins to live in a relationship with Jesus, for that is the meaning of this new covenant, is called a child of God and is saved forever.
On the other hand, it has meaning that Jesus is God.
Because then he is not just a great politician, a special speaker, a role model for humanity, but what he said and did has a completely different meaning for us.
John writes that Jesus is the truth
And this is reminiscent of Jesus’ own words:
John 14,6 I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.
Jesus does not say: I will show you the way, I will tell you the truth and I will teach you the life that fulfills you, but Jesus says I am the way, I am the truth and I am the life, namely the eternal one Life that begins now and continues after death.
So if you’re looking for the way, you’re looking for me.
If you’re looking for the truth, it’s me .
And if you are looking for life, you will find it with me.
I am the resurrection and the life.
Through me you too will be resurrected.
Faith, as the Bible understands it, means faith in Jesus.
And behind the word faith in Greek there is always the meaning of trust and trust is about relationship and that’s why John writes that we are connected to him, have fellowship with him.
Faith in Jesus is more than a decision for correct doctrine.
In all other religions there is a teaching that I consider right or wrong.
The Christian faith is about a person I follow, and that is through devotion, listening to Jesus, letting Him change me, living in friendship with Him and doing what He says.
It becomes clear who has really repented and is following Jesus at three points that John points out in his letter.
In dealing with sin and obedience,
in the love of neighbor and
in the love of God or of the world, by which we can test people , but also ourselves.
We will take a closer look at these points over the next few Sundays.
But we realize that both are needed.
The right teaching and the corresponding life.
This is perhaps very important for a congregation with a brotherly background, like ours, because these congregations were often known for their correct teaching, but real discipleship, love, was sometimes not so much to see.
And John writes later in Revelation to the 7 churches, which existed concretely, but which stand as an example for all churches to this day, about the challenges they face, and these are:
the cooling of love.
Ephesus is praised there: you are alert to the doctrine, you test the people, and that is good, but you have grown cold in your love.
Our dealings with sin and obedience, our love for neighbor and our love for God in relation to the world, and Jesus as the way we follow and relate to, are how we recognize genuine faith.
John writes that we heard Jesus, we saw him, we looked at him and we touched him.
So little by little we got closer.
Our German cannot express what Johannes writes here very well, because he says:
We were really there and saw and watched him live and what I heard and saw is still right in front of my eyes to this day. That runs through my whole life, it fascinated me so much that it can’t let me go and that’s why I’m telling you about this Jesus now.
Because in him the true, the real, the full life became visible.
Not only the eternal, but also the present.
The fellowship with one another and with him causes deep joy and a fulfilling life.
Paul writes it like this in the letter to the Ephesians: The more we get to know and understand God and his love, the more we will be filled with fulfilled life, which can only be found with God in this depth.
Perhaps that is an invitation to you this morning to get involved with this Jesus, to take the same steps as John, to hear Jesus, to see him, to take a closer look at him and to touch him, to approach him bit by bit by deal with him, read the Bible, ask other people your questions and start talking to Jesus himself, asking him: if you really exist, then show yourself to me, and then invite him into your life.
Jesus is the way.
2. How then can we recognize wrong teaching(s)?
The Bible gives us four points.
Paul criticizes in a letter to the church in Corinth:
Because when someone comes and proclaims a different Jesus to you than the one we proclaimed, you are only too happy to put up with it. You find nothing wrong with opening yourselves to a different spirit than the one you have received through us, or accepting a different gospel than the one you have accepted from us.
The first point to recognize false teaching(s) is:
And who is the ultimate liar? It is the one who denies that Jesus is the Savior sent by God, the Christ. This is exactly what the Antichrist does, and in doing so he rejects not only the Son but also the Father. For whoever rejects the Son also has no connection with the Father. However, whoever professes the Son is also connected to the Father.
Here are some things you can do to know if someone is right to claim the Spirit of God: Those who profess Jesus Christ as made flesh and blood have the Spirit that is of God. If you don’t believe in Jesus, you don’t have the spirit that comes from God. Rather, it is the spirit of the Antichrist that speaks from him .
Anyone who proclaims a Jesus other than the Bible is a false teacher.
Denies that Jesus is the Savior sent by God.
Denying that Jesus was from the beginning as we heard earlier .
He denies that Jesus was made flesh and blood.
He denies that he actually died and actually rose from the dead , because salvation encompasses all of that.
He denies that he will come back one day.
John writes that whoever rejects the son does not have the father either.
Approximately 450 years later, a person appears in the Arab world who proclaims.
There is no god but Allah alone. He neither begot nor was begotten, and there is no one like him.
The central creed of Islam is that God has no son.
Of course, we Christians do not believe that Jesus is the son of God like Ben is my son.But we believe that God is inherently fellowship, three in one.
Islam is very resolute in seeing Jesus only as a prophet, and that’s exactly where opinions differ about Jesus.
In all attempts to create a great common world religion, it is often said that “in truth we all worship the same God”, Jesus is the thorn in his side.
That is also the subtle difference among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who say that Jesus was in heaven and cleared the way to God , but not as God himself, but he is the Archangel Michael , Jesus was God’s first creation.
My impression is that it is more and more these subtleties in word usage that we should pay attention to:
Of course, Jesus is divine, but if you ask exactly what you mean, the answer is: he is not God
The second point to recognize false teaching(s) is:
Anyone who goes further and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the apprenticeship has both the father and the son.
From the Greek origin, staying in the teaching of Christ means two things: firstly, in the teaching about Christ, we already had that, but then also in what Christ taught.
Jesus used the Old Testament as an authority during his lifetime and quoted from it again and again.So he accepted it as true.
And John writes of himself and the apostles:
We, on the other hand, are of God, and those who know God listen to us, while those who are not of God do not listen to us. From this we can know whether we are dealing with the spirit of truth or with the spirit of error and falsehood.
Heresy includes everything that proclaims a different message than what is in the Bible.
And there is a wide range here:
The gnosis then, which is similar to the esoteric today, where things mix with the Christian faith, where Jesus is only a part of many
The Catholic faith, where something is added to Jesus: Jesus and Mary, Jesus and the saints. Be careful, I’m not saying that individual Catholics aren’t really believers, it’s not my place to make that judgement.
I think we have to make a very precise distinction here between the system and the individual people.
The Mormons and others, where God’s Word is often accompanied by dreams, visions and personal insights that legitimize their special teachings
All liberal theology falls under it. Wherever it is said that the Bible is not 100% God’s word, where cutbacks are made, where things are taken out of context, where people start not taking God’s word so precisely, and today we have to be careful that we too not to be taken in by the zeitgeist, by what is woke today, what is respected in society and what is not and where bit by bit a part of the gospel is taken or adapted
But in addition to this supposedly wide view, there is also the opposite, a total narrowness. And some here have experienced it before. Where one did not have the impression that God is love. Where it wasn’t enough that Jesus died for my guilt, where there was great pressure to perform. Jesus criticizes this in the letter to the Galatians and asks them: what has possessed you that you started in grace and now you want to complete it through your own efforts? That too is false teaching
The third point to recognize false teaching(s) is:
But to you he who is holy, Jesus Christ, gave his Spirit, and by this anointing you all have the necessary knowledge.
We have just read that John says that we can recognize from the content which spirit we are dealing with, because behind all heresy there is a spirit contrary to God.
God has given us his Spirit to help us discern. But there is another way to do this than just through the mind.
We say that sometimes: But a different spirit is blowing here, and sometimes it is very obvious that what is happening is not in accordance with the Bible. Sometimes, however, we just have an uneasy feeling, where we can ask ourselves: Does that have something to do with the fact that I am experiencing something here that I have not known before, or is it God’s spirit that is showing me that something wrong here?
And then there is the fourth point to recognize false teachers:
You will recognize them by the fruits
That’s what Jesus says, a good tree cannot bear bad fruit.
That is why John will also go into the effects of the Christian faith, of fellowship with Jesus, in his letter. Because again: real faith is not a doctrinal building but the relationship to a person and it expresses itself in dealing with sin and obedience, in love for the neighbor and in love for the world or for God – with all drawbacks, we are all sinners and not perfect, we will look at that in this series.
But look at the life of the person who is teaching something. And if it’s not immediately apparent, it gradually becomes clear in whose spirit a person is speaking, and most of the time with false teachers, as we said before, another Jesus, either themselves or the leader of a movement bit by bit Step into the place of Jesus and become more and more important.
The Bible tells us to examine everything, not just accept it, and if we spot false teachers, we should stay away.
But what is the best way to be and stay on the right path?
Be connected to Jesus
John ends his comments on heresy and the Antichrist in chapter 2 with this request:
Uli Neuenhausen writes in the last issue of the open doors:
A friend once explained to me how professionals learn to spot counterfeit bills: they don’t have to know all the counterfeits in the world, they just focus on the real thing – the better they know it, the easier it is for them to spot the mistakes in the counterfeits .
This is our mission: never stop getting to know Jesus better. The closer you are to his heart, understanding his good will and walking through this world with his mercy and love, the less chance you will fall for a fake.
Jesus says: My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.
He does great miracles, he imitates Jesus, the true Lamb, and deceives the people. But we can recognize him by his voice, because he talks like a dragon.
When we are close to Jesus, and that automatically means that we are in the middle of the flock of other sheep, that also means protection, then we get to know his voice better and to follow him. Then Jesus promises us that nothing and no one can snatch us out of his hand .
I said at the beginning that John writes that all this is nothing new.
I think one of the dangers is that maybe sometimes we lose the treasure we have in Jesus and faith seems so boring and then something else comes along, something new, something more promising and it pulls slowly away from Jesus.
I wish that we get to know Jesus and get to know him more and more, as John experiences it and describes it at the beginning of his letter, that we are so enthusiastic about Jesus and how God is and what he did, Jesus is so clear to us and we live in that union with him, and from that union comes joy and fullness of life unto eternity. Because then nothing and nobody will snatch us from his hand.
There are false teachings and false teachers
Jesus is the way
We can recognize false teacher(s).
But the most important and the best way is to be closely connected to Jesus.