Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/22/17 Sermon - Intruder Alert

“Intruder Alert”

2 John 1-13


We are continuing on with our study of the three epistles of John. Today’s Scripture is 2 John, which is a personal letter, unlike 1 John. You may recall 1 John was written as a homily that was to be read to the Christian churches as soon as they received it. This letter contains the same message. The author has a burden on his heart, and after writing his homily, he has written this personal letter with much of the same concerns as in his homily. In fact, out of the 13 verses in 2 John, 8 of them are remarkably similar if not exactly like ones written in 1 John. Which leads me to think that the author was seriously concerned about something. And then for this letter to become one of the books chosen to be in the Canon, or in what we have today as Holy Scripture, the point the author was making had to be something that would be important for Christians of all generations.

Both 2 and 3 John are letters which would have been handwritten on a piece of papyrus, which was the stationary used in the first century. Because the dimensions of a standard piece of papyrus was 20 by 25 centimeters, letters were limited in space. Thus 2 and 3 John are two of the shortest books in the Bible, with only 219 Greek words in 3 John, as the shortest book in the New Testament, and 245 Greek words in 2 John as the second shortest book.


2 John begins and ends with the customary greeting and salutation that was written in personal letters during the first century.


2 John is a personal letter written to a particular church, or person, depending upon which Biblical scholar you read. If you read the New International Version it has been interpreted much like a letter to a particular woman, with children of her sister also sending greetings.

If  you read from The Message, it is translated as a letter to a particular church, with the sister congregation sending greetings. Regardless of the recipient of this letter, the message is the same. This message is just as important for us today as it was for the first people who read it. As we read through it, I would like you to picture a bright yellow light, blinking persistently across the page. It’s a yellow light that means,

“Warning! Warning!” “Intruder Alert!” “Beware!”

There may also be one of those buzzing sounds that goes off when someone passes through the laser light that shines across the entrance of a room where one wants to know someone one has entered.


Keep the yellow light and buzzer sound in the back of your mind as we begin reading through this letter.


The author addresses the reader and proclaims that he loves the church, “in truth.” In fact, he states that everyone who knows the truth, loves this church.

The idea demonstrated here is that Christians are bound together, not because we are of the same denomination, or the same socio-economic status, or political persuasion. The common denominator that holds the Christian community together is the truth, in Jesus Christ, as Savior, Son of God, Incarnate, who does not change, and is the same today, yesterday and forever.  


And in this truth, the author offers, grace, mercy and peace.


The remainder of the letter is in the format I was taught as a teacher to use called, the “oreo cookie” evaluation.


Say something positive - the chocolate cookie outside

Give your exhortation or corrections - the vanilla frosting inside

Say something positive - the chocolate cookie outside


This way two positives engulf the negative and your corrections are easier to swallow.


The author of 2 John does just that. He starts the meat of his letter with, I can’t tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as commanded by the Father.”


A positive exhortation… many of you have got it together, you are doing the right thing and it makes me happy.

The next line begins with, “But”

When a sentence begins with the word “but” you know there is a statement of correction behind it, the vanilla frosting part of the cookie.

The author writes,

“But, permit me a reminder, friends, and this is not a new commandment but simply a repetition of our original and basic charter: that we love each other.

Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love. This is the first thing you heard, and nothing has changed.”

This author must have been hearing things that made him feel the need to reiterate his exhortation, that Christians are supposed to love each other, above all things. The very nature of Christ, is love, and it is that nature that the author not only experienced first hand, but keeps reminding the early Christians. I suspect, like the Christian churches I experience today, the believers believed they loved God, and that they were demonstrating love to each other, but in reality their worldly influences were often times winning out over their redeemed minds and souls. Have you noticed that when difficult times occur and stress kicks in, the old self and the old familiar ways manage to take over?


I think the author understood our human nature.


When we read about the disciples and how many times they followed their human nature while walking with Jesus we realize that the person writing this knew first hand what it was like to resort to what he thought he knew to be right, only to have Jesus show him what God’s love was all about. I think he realized we need reminding, in order for love to become our second nature, instead of allowing our human nature to take over. Even if our parents brought us up to “love” our brothers and our sisters, often times our pride and selfish needs take over and we forget. The author and God both knew that this new kind of faith, was going to need the exhortation of loving one another repeated, continually.  


God’s unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love.


The author reminds them of this love, because

Yellow Light! Buzzing Sound! Someone has entered the building!


Because, the author wants them to be aware when false teachers start talking to them and attempt to lead them astray.


False teachers were a danger in the first century and they are a danger in the twenty-first century. The danger for the first century Christian, was that according to Christian ethics if a teacher was traveling through your town, as a Christian, you were to show them hospitality. Which meant if you had the means,  you were to welcome him in your home and feed him and give him a place to stay. The author knew there were teachers that were traveling around that taught that Jesus was God, but that Jesus had no real connection with the material world, but that Jesus only appeared to connect with the material world. In other words, Jesus wasn’t really human, because God is not human.  Yet, the author wanted to remind the church that Jesus was indeed human, flesh and blood, and anyone who stated otherwise was a deceiver or antichrist!

The author stresses that the Christians need to be very careful so that they don’t lose everything they have worked so hard for, together. He writes, “Don’t let those who are deceptive take away any of the rewards you have already achieved.” There is a sense that Christianity has just started and is just beginning to grow. Should someone be allowed to enter a congregation and take them another way, and they begin walking away from God, all that has been attained thus far, would be lost. Eugene Peterson puts it this way,

“Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God. But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.”


The author then shares how to handle such deceivers. He tells them that if such a person shows up, they are not to invite them to teach and share. The author does not say we should be mean or unkind, but that we shouldn’t give them an ability to spread their false teachings.


How does that fit in our culture today? It would be unlikely that with the Council  members and myself determining who speaks at our church services that we would have a smooth-talking charlatan teaching in our church. But we do have false teaching individuals that come to our doors at home and ask to come in and share their false view of the gospel, namely the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. What are we to do when this happens? The author’s advice is appropriate. “Don’t invite them in and give them the run of the place.”  Yet in doing so, we need to remember the first commandment of this letter, we are to do so with love. Respectfully declining a visit from someone you know you do not agree with theologically, is the correct response.


The author closes his personal letter by stating he has many things to share but hopes to do so in person. Everyone around him sends their greetings.


This short letter holds two important reminders. First, while living out the Truth, love one another, as Christ has loved the Church. Jesus put it this way in John 13:34

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

And while we are doing this, we need to be as wise as serpents, and spot the deceivers amongst us. It is said that the best way to detect a counterfeit bill is to know what the genuine currency looks like. When we listen to what others believe, the best way to determine if they are deceivers or antichrists, is to know what true believers believe.

At the time when 2 John was written the Gnostic teachers of the time were claiming that while the gospel of the historic Jesus might be all very well for unenlightened people, they had a profounder knowledge. They claimed to be leaders and teachers with more insight and understanding.

The author reminds us that the gospel states clearly who Jesus was and there was no need for anyone to add to this.

Fast forward to the 19th Century, and again, a group of so called Christian leaders decided it was time to re-evaluate the fundamentals of Biblical Christianity and they were Christian pastors, leaders and theologians who denied many of the fundamentals of Biblical Christianity in light of modern science, philosophy and thinking. This movement is known as Theological Liberalism. At the root of this movement, the idea that a doctrine was true simply because the Bible said so, was ludicrous and therefore needed to be proved true by reason and experience. They believed that the importance of the Bible was in its changing spiritual message, not in its literal or historical truth. They believed that the Bible was not an inspired message from a real God, but the work of men who were limited by the ignorance and superstitions of their time.

This theological liberalism impacted theologians and philosophers in Germany and had a profound impact on Christians in both Great Britain and America. Many of the various movements in Christianity today are a result of reactions to liberal influence. Attempts to get back to traditional Christian orthodoxy.

 

All this to be said, that whether in the first century, the 19th Century or today. The message presented in 2 John is still relevant. Let us make a daily effort to spend more time in God’s Word, and in God’s presence, so that when an imposter or deceiver comes through the door, alarms go off and yellow lights blink and we recognize them for who they are, and politely escort them back from whence they came.


Let’s pray.