~by Randy Bushey
Question: what do George Washington, Mao Tse Tung, Adolph Hitler, and the Apostle John have in common?
All believed that the best defence was a good offence.
The first 3 declared and demonstrated that in military strategy, when you are taking the battle to your opponent, their ability to counter-punch is diminished.
And in his first epistle, John – the longest living of the apostles of Christ – proved that the best defence for the people of God in preventing them from being confused by the heresies (false teaching) of the day, was to inoculate them with constant doses of biblical truth.
In a word, doctrine.
So how to explain the unusual – and abrupt – final sentence of the epistle in which John concludes the book with the gentle warning: Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
In the doctrinal assertions he’s laid out in the verses just prior, John is building his case as he’s reaching his conclusion, with 4 things that believers affirm in every era:
1) We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning (v.18). Being a Christ-follower brings with it a growing hatred of our own sin.
2) We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (v19). Belonging to God prioritizes Christ’s Lordship, a graphic change from what we were.
3) And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding (v.20). Christ’s mission was to save His people, leading them into all truth. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 18:32).
4) so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. As truth takes root in our lives, we’ll grow in our capacity to know the Triune God – propositionally and in our experience.
This is John’s strategic offensive push, protecting his spiritual children from falling victim to the imbalance of false worship: Little children, keep yourselves from idols (v.21).
Takeaway: as the Lord leads us through the process of sanctification, a good offence remains the best defence.
Here’s the problem: many 21st century Christians think of doctrine as being the exclusive domain of seminarians and Bible teachers.
If we want to emulate the practice of the early church, we need to get doctrine into our DNA by immersing ourselves in the Word: reading it, studying it, and living it out to the glory of God.
Here’s the basic application of this principle in our lives: in my current context, what kind of woman/man does God call me to be?