Continue In Him
1 John 2:26-29
Key Verse 28
“And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”
John has been talking a lot about who actually has a relationship with the Lord Jesus, and who does not. He’s told us that those who have a relationship with Christ acknowledge that he is the Christ, the Son of God, the one who came in the flesh, and sacrificed his life to solve our sin problem. They walk in the light of his word and obey his commands. They love the brotherhood of believers. They renounce the world and its glittering temptations and embrace the truth of God instead. John also tells us that the children of God have an anointing from God, the mark of the Holy Spirit upon them, through which they know the truth of God from the deceptions of the devil. John said that part of the reason he is writing them these things is to warn them against those who are trying to lead them astray. (26) The Bible tells us that the devil is the one who leads the whole world astray. (Rev. 12:9) He does so through false prophets and teachers who deceive the world by spreading false gospels— false gospels that mimic the real gospel but that are Blood-less and Christ-less. What I mean by that is Satan’s gospel does not necessarily have to be some clearly outrageous false teaching, but for the most part could very well be a teaching about Christ but which ignores his sacrifice on the cross and his shed blood. Satan is smart. On one side, Satan’s gospel would honor Jesus’ life and teaching and on the other, he would nullify his sacrifice on the cross. Why? Because only in the cross of Christ and through his shed blood can a sinner truly repent of his or her sins, ask forgiveness, and receive the mark of anew life as a child of God.
Today we see countless false gospels in the world and even in the churches. We can only assume that contrary to the Biblical warning, they had been led astray. One of the greatest deceptions of all time is this: that is no such thing as sin. Another deception is this: that sin is okay because it is natural. Another deception is this: While sin exists, there are yet certain things that are not sin— but rather they are human rights. Today you can speak against stealing and cheating, but you cannot speak against sexual sins and preferences. A great effort is being made by Satan and his servants in this world to legalize popular sins and to stamp out the stigma of sin. Without the right concept of sin, people cannot recognize their sinful condition and cannot repent. Without repentance and faith in the Christ who shed his blood and died, there can be no eternal life. Thus John tells us: “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.” Paul also warns saying: “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (2Thess. 2:9-12)
But look at verse 27. “As 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.” Nothing can save you from Satan’s deceptions nor help you stand firm in your faith— not your knowledge nor your skill nor your ability to argue Bible well, can save you from master deceivers. Even right now they have swallowed up huge congregations. Satan is the god of this world and he knows how to deceive even the best of pretend Christians. However, the elect are not so easily deceived because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, although they may be confused and misled in their affections at times, and especially if they do not “remain in him”. But nothing can save except the anointing. You need the anointing of the holy spirit. But it has nothing to do you’re your head knowledge or your Christian function and rituals such as church attendance and gatherings. But the anointing is the coming of the Holy Spirit on you when you confess your sins and believe in Christ Jesus. That anointing is the inward work of God working on your inner person to convict and to infuse and imprint the truth of God in your heart. The spirit works with the word of God that you hold on to, to open your eyes to see and to know all things related to the father and the son.
The spirit also gives us sincere love for the word of God which he teaches us which we are taught. This is very important work of the Spirit. Even if our minds and conscience tells us what we should do, unless we have love and affection for the one who tells us what we should do, we would not joyfully carry out our duty. But where does love for God and his word come from so that we might obey them? It comes from the anointing we have received in the Holy Spirit. He, the Spirit of God who works in our hearts to trust the truth and hold on to it, also works in us to love the Lord and to do his will in our lives. What about those who have the anointing but who seem to do or want to do nothing for the Lord? Complacency, laziness and spiritual coldness towards our duties to God is a sign that we are not listening to his voice in our hearts. But when we repent our complacency and indifference to his work, he teaches and enables us to do as he will us to do, so that we might fulfill our duties to him as his children.
John also says “you don’t need anyone to teach you”. What he means is that the Spirit teaches you many things. When you have the anointing of the Spirit upon you, you know in your heart the truth of our Lord, his life, his suffering, his sacrifice, his victory, his seating in the highest heaven and his sure return. You also know the fundamental truths about his grace in your life, his deep love for you, his promises to lead you daily into his presence where you can receive strength and vigor to serve his purpose. John also says: “You know all things”. Of course you need to mature in these things as he teaches them to you. You are in no way fully grown in him yet. You need the Spirit’s work and you need the fellowship of believers’ support and the daily reflection on him so that you can grow in his image. Some Christians are so misled that they seem to think they need no one to mentor them and no fellowship to give accountability to. They seem to think they are experts in the knowledge of truth. That kind of arrogance keeps them in the infant stage, like ill tempered two year olds, throwing fits and tantrums all the time. It is therefore, hard for them to see the full truth of God and consequently maturing in it. When the Lord anoints you, it’s like a painting. Your inner life and consequently your life as a whole is a work in progress. We know the essential truths from the anointing of the Spirit but by no means can we see the whole picture yet. The work of the Spirit is like the strokes of a master artist whose brush paints lines and colors that slowly come together to reveal a marvelous picture. Still he works on the painting more as it gains elements that keep on shaping it with colors and layers of paint as the end painting becomes more visible. To mature spiritually by the work of the Spirit, is to show us things we never understood or could see before when we were only a stroke of a brush. Our maturing is the masters brush upon our hearts and souls until the work is one day perfected and done!
While some immature Christians snub and resist being taught and mentored because of their arrogance and pride, other Christians seem to rely too much on their mentors, expecting too much from them, be it human understanding or some suitable teaching or even assistance in different situations of life. But as much as a teacher is obligated by the law of Love to serve those whom he is entrusted with, let me tell you that a teacher or mentor is still nothing and Christ is ever Everything. You will have to learn in the Spirit to look to the Lord Jesus for Everything because he alone is the source of our life and the wellspring of our blessings. (1 Cor. 3.5,7)
John warns against deceptions and false teachings in his letter. But he also assures us that it is very difficult to deceive the true children of God. John says that the true children of God have an anointing from Jesus— in other words, the Holy Spirit. By this anointing, we know right from wrong, the good from the evil, and the lie from the truth. He says in verse 27: “As 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.” And this then is what the Holy Spirit teaches us. He teaches us to “remain in him”. When we remain in Christ Jesus, everything promised us is true, especially we are shielded from the devil’s deception.
John says: “Just as [the anointing] has taught you, remain in him.” He continues in verse 28: “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.” In order to continue in him, one must remain in him first. What then does it mean to “remain in him”? It means offer your loyalty to Christ; To make him the distinguished Object of your heart and the focus of all your affection; To talk to him daily from your heart; To follow the example he has left you through his life and teaching; To find your true joy in him always; To study his word so that you can take deep root in them and find your standing only in his words; To struggle to grow in the grace and knowledge of him. It’s so important that you do so! Nothing will effectively keep you from the lies and deception of the devil as when you keep your heart and mind fixed on the Lord Jesus, for he is your life and the length of your days. (Deut. 30.19-20) But you need faith to do so. What is faith? “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. (Heb 11.1) Faith is not some cold calculated understanding of Christ in the head, but faith is a living experience of his personal grace in our lives and the knowledge of who he is and what he has accomplished for us. This grace and knowledge then, produces confidence in him in our hearts. And confidence is being able to approach the father freely and to remain in communion with him. Who did this for us? Jesus made this possible for us when after his resurrection, he ascended to heaven and opened the way for us to come to God— no longer as God’s enemies as his dear children. Those who remain in Christ, who commune with him regularly are free to come to him— just as they are— with full confidence. They have died with Christ, and also raised with him to a new life. These are the ones who patiently wait on Christ’s return and who do not fear his second coming.
John continues to say: “Continue in him”. It’s our duty as Christians to remain and to continue in him. While our remaining in Christ is ensured through the grace of the anointing, our continuing in him is very much our own responsibility. Just because we remain in him solely by his grace and mercy to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, it certainly doesn’t release us from our accountability and obligation to him as his servants, chosen to serve his purpose and to do his work in our lives. The words, “Continue in him, so that when he appears” tell us what we ought to be doing until his appearing. We ought to continue in him. And this is a call to continue in all that he has taught us and given us to do! Christian life is not all about simply remaining in him and that’s that! It’s about continuing in him so that the Spirit can do his work in and through us for the glory of God. The Spirit was never given to us to exempt us from fulfilling our duty to our Savior, but rather to enable us to discharge this holy duty. Talents and gifts are given to us that we might use them and not to bury them in the ground. Our very anointing makes failure on our part to serve his purpose inexcusable. The same Jesus who told Peter “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” also told Peter to “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22.32,40) The same Paul who said to the Philippians: “It is God who works in you to will and to act” also said to them: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2.13,12) Actually he is saying: “Be active and diligent in your work, because God is working in you.” This has nothing to do with the adage: “God helps those who help themselves.” And it has everything to do with: “The Spirit of God is working in you, so go ahead and fulfill your purpose— your mission— your holy duty to God”.
Read verse 28 again. “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.” The appearance of Christ is a major teaching in the Christian faith. Christ once appeared in the flesh to live on earth as our shepherd and to lead us in the way of truth. But Christ was crucified and rose from the dead to conquer our enemy death and to reunite us with our long lost father and God. Christ is now hid from the eyes of the world because he has ascended to the heavens in order to appear before God as our High Priest for whom he died and in whom our faith rests. (Hebrews 9:24). But the Bible repeatedly talks about Jesus who will appear again in glory so that the whole world will see him with their own eyes. On that day the world will greatly mourn because of what is in store for it and its people who have rejected the Christ and were given over to Satan’s deceptions. (Matthew 24:30)
“But… Who can stand when he appears?” (Malachi 3:2) The answer to that question is in 1 John 4.16,17. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment.” On the other hand, those who are not in Christ will not be able to endure or stand. (Psalm 1.5,4) They will be like the chaff blown by the wind. On that day when the light bursts forth from the heavens to expose every heart and to reveal every intention and to show every sin of every human being on the face of this earth, there will be two kinds of people. There will be those who will stand in confidence before him and then again there will be those who will be ashamed in his presence. As Jesus said in John 5:29 “Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” God’s children will experience a resurrection of life, while those who rejected Christ will experience a resurrection to eternal condemnation. As Daniel the prophet said: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2)
The two classes of people will be separated one from the other as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32). On that day Christ will be glorified in his saints and he will punish the wicked. (2 Thess. 1:8,10) On that day those who are in Christ, who loved him and lived by his word will have confidence while those who have followed strange teachings of the enemies of the cross will be shamed. It will happen exactly as Jesus had said in Mark 8:38. “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” It is indeed a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Christ who will appear to judge the world for its sins. On the other hand, there can never be any sweeter words than to hear this from the lips of the Savior: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23) The coming of the Lord is near, and the final judgment of God is sure. We must examine our hearts to see how earnestly we are remaining and continuing in the Lord in our daily lives. We must live as if he will come today or tomorrow.
Read verse 29. “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” John is once again telling us who the true Christian is and who is not. He first shows us God’s character, and then he shows us what those who are born of God, his true children’s character should be like. That is a distinguishing mark of who is and who is not a child of God. The mark is those who do what is right. But we need to distinguish what is genuine here in doing what is right and what is not so genuine. The world has many exemplary good works, and genuine efforts at goodness and rightness which may be considered as “doing what is right”, but it doesn’t mean that they are born again by the spirit of God, neither are they the children of God. What then is John talking about? That is why he tells us who God is, that we might know that the children are like their father in character. Like begets like. As the Lord himself is righteous, so also are his children. So also are their works— they do what is right in the sight of their father God. That is what you will find God’s true children doing as they wait for his appearing.
John first says that we who are true Christian know that the Lord Jesus is righteous. It’s amazing how we are quick to think about Jesus more as compassionate and gracious, merciful and kind, rather than righteous. But the Lord is indeed righteous! He is righteous in person and in character and in conduct. He is ever right in all he does. He is morally upright. His ways are just. He is the embodiment of justice, that is divine justice which is different from human corrupt justice. There is no corruption in him. He is ever right is all his judgment. All his righteousness is revealed in the Bible, especially in his life and teaching. God called him “My righteous servant” (Isaiah 53:11) Jesus came and lived the perfect life. He obeyed the laws of God perfectly. He revealed God’s loving and righteous character perfectly. Even the most religious and moral authority in the land were exposed as hypocrites because Jesus perfected obedience to the law in a way than none ever had. He revealed sin as it truly is, sin! He cleansed the temple. He shone light on us all and exposed the darkness lurking in our hearts. Jesus rebuked and comforted, taught and disciplined, prayed for and defended his disciples in perfect righteousness. No one could lay a charge on him of even one sin. Jesus, as the Bible tells us, is our “king of righteousness”. (Hebrews 7:2)
Now then, who are the children of God? Now we can see what John meant by these words: “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” The children of God hate sin as the righteous Lord hates it, and they love truth. All their work is like the work of their Lord and Savior, a work of righteousness for the cause of righteousness. Paul confirms this when he says: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:13) Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Romans 6:19-22) As we grow nearer to the completion of our membership classes, these words become ever so important in our commitment to God and to the body of Christ and to one another. God’s children eagerly wait for the Lord to appear from heaven, and they are ever so confident because they follow the example of their Lord, since they are born of him and resemble him and whose hope is to be ever made more and more into his likeness. Amen.