1 John 4: 4-6
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Credibility: showing and saying how it is – as friends who agree
1John 4: 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood
There is a process unfolding here. We have seen that it is good to set out on God’s way, which is the way of relationships, and to show this new life, God’s way of love, so that love is made complete in us by finding destinations in others. And having set out, with that intention to show, pretty soon we will be put to the test of what we actually say about it. Both on-guard (at church? In the home group?) and in those off-guard moments (overcrowded and late train, trouble at work, another family insurrection at home…). God is at work. And not equally, but vehemently. the enemy is active..
There have been a number of stories in the news recently about the monitoring of conversations. The US National Security Agency apparently follows European Union dialogue, which may be of concern to some. Although think of someone having to read through those utterly tedious directives… However, my emails being run through the GMHQ at Cheltenham is not something I’ll lose sleep over – until the day that practising my faith is deemed politically incorrect and subversive.
However, there’s another dimension that we don’t always recognise. Our worldview is like a railway carriage, compartmentalised world where we think that what we say only affects those in the same space as us, who are listening. Not so: everything we say – whether faith or unbelief, truth or untruth, righteous or rebellious – has an effect. It either blesses or does the opposite. It either leads us into righteousness or it leads us into sin. We don’t think enough about the consequences of this.
James in his letter urges us, as disciples, to be careful about what we say. James 3:10-11 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing… Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
How much of what we say is neutral? For the rest, we are either speaking for Jesus and the government of the Kingdom of God, or we are chiming in for the opposition. And all this is monitored, not by GMHQ but by angels and demons, who also know what is of truth and what is falsehood and keep a score (I never mentioned the word ‘whips’). To put it very simply, if we are found to be speaking faith sometimes, and at other times speaking against Jesus (who we have acknowledged publicly to be our Lord and the One we represent), this gives the enemy legal rights to oppress us, through our thought life and in a repertoire of other ways. That is the part-believing, part-doubting doubleminded trap we can fall into which James teaches us is unstable – what we ask for gets stolen by the enemy before we receive it (James 1: 6-8). Many of us struggle today because of what we said yesterday (or years ago), or what was said over us. We can, however edit the record. With a bit of help from a friend we can prayerfully renounce untrue beliefs and statements that are causing us harm, and assert faith and truth and God’s purposes in their place.
On a fellowship level, when relationships are good and there is transparency over motives and actions, it will not be difficult to get a good level level of agreement, and our prayer victories will rise. What has this to do with the passage? Everything. When we are people who are committed to loving one another, even when we disagree, even when not everything is going our way, that precious – and spiritually powerful – agreement will be preserved. The full weight of the fellowship comes behind whatever prayer is being prayed. Jesus made two strong statements about this: “When two of you agree…(Matthew 18: 19) and….”whatever you ask…will be done for you” (John 15: 7 and 16). Strong, clear statements. When we do it God’s way, we will see God’s results.
John’s main thrust to his first century readers is about recognising who is of the truth – the spirit of truth and of falsehood. We need to make this discernment corporately, too. Where ministry is starting to look ‘stary and scary’, where biblically authoritative teaching is lapsing into what is merely authoritarian and controlling, is this the character of God or the viewpoint of the world? A North Korean-style ‘agreement’ is not sustainable and it is not what God is looking for.
When we are are a body of people who are committed to each other and to Jesus, consistent about believing Him and speaking for Him (and quick to acknowledge and correct our mistakes along the way), we will start to experience that ‘open heaven’ over us, that sense of connection and place of encounter with God. Others will beat a path to our door to experience some of this sozo healing, freedom and salvation that God is doing among us.