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– Alive and Well Today
David A. DePra
believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because
many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of
God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of
God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh
is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that
it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little
children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he
that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world,
and the world hears them. We are of God: he that knows God hears us; he that is
not of God hears not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of
error. (1 John 4:1-6)
warning by the apostle John speaks directly to the relationship of Jesus Christ
to flesh and blood. It speaks to the fact that HE became a flesh and blood
human being, but it also speaks to the fact the since the ascension, Jesus
continues to come and indwell flesh and blood human beings. This
relationship between Christ and flesh and blood is so vital, and so important,
that John states that on that issue alone we are able to, "test the
spirits," to see whether they are of God.
is not hard to see why this issue is so important. Christianity is CHRIST
IN US. And all Christian teaching, fellowship, and ministry, is to be an
edification of Christ in us, or the outcome of Christ in us. Thus, once we
misrepresent Christ in us -- misrepresent the fact, the means, and the results
of Christ in us -- we are misrepresenting Christianity itself.
is, in essence, what John is saying. He is saying, "Any spirit which
denies that Jesus is come in the flesh cannot be of God." Thus, any
teaching, doctrine, person, or spirit, which is a misrepresentation of what it
means for Christ to come and dwell in flesh and blood human beings, is not of
God. It is, in fact, of the antichrist.
may seem as if such warnings could not possibly have application for us today.
But this warning of John has a greater application today than ever. If
there is one thing that has been distorted for the last two-thousand years, it
is the reality of Christ in us.
first century, there was a pagan, Greek philosophy and religion which we have
come to call, "Gnosticism." John doesn't call it that in this
passage, because it wasn't called that back then. But the heresy of
GNOSTICISM is essentially what John is warning against.
Gnostics believed that the entire physical or material world was evil. This
included the physical makeup of human beings – that too, was evil.
Consequently, the god of Gnosticism would have nothing to do with the material
we see the reason for the warning of John. Gnostic philosophy could not
accept the notion that God would become man. Indeed, that is about the
LAST thing the Gnostic god would do. Gnostics would absolutely deny that
Jesus Christ came in the flesh. But that is not where the problem ends.
It is only where it begins. For if God could have nothing to do with the
flesh and blood world, He certainly could not come to indwell flesh and blood
human beings. Thus, Gnosticism was a denial of the very definition of
Christianity: Christ in us.
course, pagan Gnosticism was not Christianity -- not even close. But
Christianity arose in a culture influenced by Gnosticism, and so it wasn't
before long that Gnostic philosophy began invading the church. People
began to take the gospel of Jesus Christ and apply Gnostic philosophy to it.
Or, to turn it around, Christians began to buy into what amounted to Gnostic
teaching, but packaged with Christian terms. Thus, the Jesus who emerged
from this error was not God become man. Rather, He was God who just
appeared to BE a man.
Jesus who did not come in the flesh, but just appeared to be a man, could not
BEAR the sin of the world. He could not really die and be raised.
But just as important would be the ramifications of those facts. If Jesus
did not bear our sin, then we are still in sin -- still in Adam. Thus, all
of our Christianity must be adjusted to account for that. And if Jesus did
not come in the flesh -- because God would never have anything to do with flesh
and blood -- then most certainly, Jesus does not come in INDWELL US. So
again, the very definition of Christianity is skewed and misrepresented.
And you would have to come up with alternatives for Christian living, victory
over sin, and the means of our salvation, which could fit into the foundation
you have built upon Gnosticism.
when we read John's warning, we need to see that he is not merely warning
Christians about a wrong doctrine. He is warning them about a false
Christianity, based on another Jesus. He is warning them about any
revelation that suggests that Jesus Christ did not come as a man -- and
furthermore -- he is warning them about any revelation that skews the meaning of
this for US.
MUST see this. If we don't, we will never grasp the meaning of John's
warning. The foundation of Christianity is Jesus Christ come in the flesh
-- God becoming man and doing a redemptive work. But the impact of this
upon us is CHRIST come in us -- Christ in us, the hope of glory. Thus,
what Jesus Christ personally did as a finished work, and then what that finished
work means for us, are both embodied in what the Holy Spirit will teach:
The Holy Spirit will always confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh --
His flesh then, and indwell our body now.
if all you think that is at issue here is a doctrine, you may not think this is
any big deal. But there is more than a doctrine at issue. At stake
here is the Truth and reality of Jesus Christ in us. The work of
the Holy Spirit in this age is ALWAYS Christ in us. The work of the enemy
is to deny this, hinder it, misrepresent what it means, and to lead Christians
away from it.
enemy is always going to attack the reality of Christ in us. He is always
going to redefine it, misrepresent it, or substitute for it. In the first
century, he used Gnosticism. Today, he continues his work through other
apostle John was not worried about Christians abandoning Jesus Christ and
becoming Gnostics. Rather, he was worried about Jesus Christ being
presented in Gnostic terms.
example, when Gnosticism began to influence the church, the false teachers did
not say, "Jesus is not God. He is not your Savior." No.
In fact, they proclaimed Jesus as Savior. But then they completely
REDEFINED what that means. They said, "Jesus is Savior, but He
never really became a man. He just looked like one." And then
they would add, "Therefore, Christ in not in you."
that was bad enough. But it was not the whole ugly picture. For once
you begin to state such errors, you must explain how you are saved. You
must adjust all of your Christian teaching to fit a faulty foundation. I
mean, if Christianity is not CHRIST IN US, then what is it?
presented a problem. Gnostic teaching had to maintain Christ as Savior to
deceive people. So what could the enemy offer as a substitute for Christ
in us, the hope of glory?
find the answer once we look at the term, "Gnosticism." It
represents what is admittedly a very complicated system, with many versions and
shades of philosophical belief. But the term, "Gnosticism,"
gives away the fundamental idea. "Gnosticism," comes from the Greek
word, "gnosis," which means, "knowledge," or,
"knowing." Gnosticism is therefore a religion based on
KNOWLEDGE. In Christianity, it became "salvation through
knowledge," -- i.e., faith in my factual knowledge about Jesus Christ.
we see the key. Christianity is CHRIST IN US. But Gnosticism is
intellectual knowledge in us -- our knowledge about Christ that we have
generated from ourselves. While Christianity was a revelation of Jesus
Christ that is given into us in the form of a Person -- coming to us from
outside -- Gnosticism is a knowledge mustered up from myself, coming from
within, and is not the indwelling of an actual person. It is simply me
thinking I know facts, doctrines, and teachings ABOUT a person. And of
course, in this case, what I think I know is error.
is actually an incredibly SUBTLE deception. Of course! It would have
to be extremely subtle to infiltrate the first century church. It would
have to be error that uses Christian terms, and which offers a substitute for
CHRIST IN US that seems to be right. Otherwise, it would not work as a
tool in the hands of the enemy.
So it is. Today the same error of Gnosticism is alive and well. Gnosticism is faith in my knowledge -- faith in my knowledge ABOUT Jesus Christ, rather than faith in Christ Himself. When I walk in this error, my focus is not on my relationship with the indwelling Christ, it is rather upon doctrines about Him. Christianity is no longer about the indwelling of a Person -- Christianity is no longer, "Christ in us." Rather, Christianity becomes an indwelling of facts and doctrines ABOUT Christ.
are thousands of people in churches today who believe facts about Jesus, but who
have no knowledge of the Person -- no experience of the living Christ within
them. Their faith is in those facts -- they mistake doctrines about the
Person for the actual indwelling OF that Person. This is Gnosticism.
Christianity is NOT faith in the facts about Jesus -- although we need those
facts, and need to believe those facts! But Christianity is CHRIST IN US.
The ploy of the enemy is to blur the line between the two.
enemy of our souls is not concerned about using the right terms. He is
satisfied that we buy into whatever hinders our faith, and whatever keeps us
from the Truth. Therefore, you will never meet anyone who is a Christian
deceived by Gnosticism who says, "Jesus has not come in the flesh."
No. But what does happen is that all the while we proclaim that Jesus did
become a man, and all the while we shout that Jesus does indwell us, we are
blinded to what that really MEANS. We are blinded to the impact of Christ
in us. Thus, in the end, it won't help us if we believe the doctrine of
Christ in us. What does matter is whether Christ IS in us, and whether we
are living in all that his MEANS in the plan and purpose of God.
have already mentioned one way in which you and I could deny that Jesus is come
in the flesh. We could substitute for CHRIST IN US with knowledge about
Christ. We could live lives completely focused on teachings, doctrines,
theology, academics, and credentials, instead of upon resurrection life.
This is done all the time. One example:
Today, ministry is not the life of Christ in a person, flowing through
them -- ministry is not Jesus come in the flesh as a witness and minister to
others. Rather, ministry is the product of education at a seminary.
Few churches seem to realize that the most important credential for ministry is
the spiritual impact that a pastor has on a congregation. Is Christ in
him, ministering through him, reproducing and multiplying the life of Christ in
others? Instead, the goal is to find a pastor who has credentials, who can
grow a church, and keep everyone happy. This may not seem like Gnosticism,
but it is, indirectly, a denial of CHRIST IN US. It is a substitute FOR
CHRIST with other issues.
way to deny that Jesus is come in the flesh is to neglect the centrality and
power of the Cross. Paul writes in Romans, "If Christ be in you,
you body is dead because of sin, but your spirit is alive because of
righteousness." The point is, if Christ is in us, we are under the power of
the Cross. The work of the Cross will put to death all that is of the old order,
so that the life of Christ may be made manifest through us. Well, I could loudly
proclaim that Christ is in me, yet so redefine what that means so as to make the
work of the Cross unnecessary. This is done all the time by Christians.
I deny the necessity of the work of the Cross in the life of the believer, I am
really denying the ramifications of CHRIST IN US – for the work of the Cross
is the result of Christ in us. Thus, if I fashion my Christian teaching to
sidestep this work of the Cross, and offer Christians a shortcut to resurrection
life WITHOUT this death, then I am denying Christ in us. I may not think so. I
may preach Christ in us. But what good is it if I teach that Christ is in us, if I
deny everything it MEANS? Or distort what it means?
form of Gnosticism is the gospel of self-esteem. This false teaching
suggests that Christ has come to make you a better person. The gospel of
self-esteem suggests that when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us, that He
simply ENHANCES US, and affirms us, and begins to turn us into something
wonderful. Lost is the Truth that the only thing good about any of us, in
the end, is going to be Christ in us. Thus, rather than enhance or affirm
us, Christ in us will result in US being set completely aside.
is amazing that people cannot see that once we realize Jesus is come in our
flesh, and indwells us, that the impact is going to be drastic. Everything
about us that is not in harmony with Christ in us must either be adjusted or be
crucified. Christ in us is going to do a work in us that will clash with
everything about our self-interest and temporal goals. Thus, the
gospel of self-esteem is a denial of the Truth that Jesus is come in the flesh
– what that really MEANS -- and I don't care whether the right words are used
we see that if we deny what Christ in us MEANS, and if we deny the impact and
ramifications of Christ in us, that we are turning the Truth of Christ in us
into error? -- into something less? Sure. We are actually saying
that Jesus is not come in the flesh -- that is, His life in us is something
other than what it really is.
heard Kenneth Copeland the other day on television saying that because Jesus
Christ is in us, we are heirs to everything that Jesus will inherit. He was
RIGHT on that point. But then he went on to turn this Truth into a big error. He
said that Christ in us gives us the right to lay claim to wealth, and really to
everything Christ can lay claim to.
Can we see the problem here? The man is using the FACT that Christ is in us as
license to get from God want he wants. The Truth is, if Christ is in us, then BY
DEFINITION this means we are not our own, but bought with a price. It means, BY
DEFINITION, that Jesus Christ is OUR PERSONAL LORD – and that the only right
we have is to give up our rights to Him. In other words, we must submit
ourselves to the Cross.
what the Bible says:
Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if
so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
is one thing. Inheritance is another. You and I, if Christ is in us, have all
the potential to inherit everything God gave Christ. But only as we enter into
His will, and come under His Lordship, shall we have any capacity as to how to
live in that inheritance. But hey, it is always easier to quote only the first
half of a verse.
is the case with so many today, Copeland took a Truth of the Bible – Christ in
us – and unwittingly turned it into Gnosticism. He preached CHRIST IN US –
but made it mean something that actually denies everything Christ in us
means: The work of the Cross, the fellowship of His sufferings, and the
power of His resurrection.
we say CHRIST IN US means is either an affirmation that Jesus is come in the
flesh, or a denial of that Truth. Anyone can make the statement,
"Jesus is come in the flesh." Anyone can say, "Jesus is
Lord." But what do we MEAN by that? What we mean is really the
essence of what we are teaching.
John says, "Every spirit that confesses that Jesus is come in the flesh is
of God," he is addressing more than just the words. He is talking
about the entire revelation and picture that is being taught. Any spirit
that is of God is going to rightly represent the relationship that Jesus Christ
has with flesh and blood. The Truth will always rightly represent
Christianity as CHRIST IN US, and everything this means.
there is one thing the enemy wants to do, it is to distort the reality of CHRIST
IN US. For within the reality of that one Truth – and what it means for flesh
and blood human beings – is the purpose of God in His people. This is
precisely what John is able to say that it is the very spirit of anti-Christ
that would confess, in one way or another, that, "Jesus is not come in the
the apostle continually harped on the reality of Christ in us. He did this
because the church of the latter first century had begun to stray from CHRIST
WITHIN over to intellectual teachings and philosophy ABOUT Christ. Teachings are
necessary, if they are Biblical. But not as a substitute for the life
within – but rather as an explanation of it.
in fact, ends his epistle by telling us that the very evidence of Christianity
is – NOT a theological argument, or secret knowledge, or the philosophy of
man. The evidence is CHRIST IN US.
we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the
witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son
of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made
him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And
this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is
in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of
God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name
of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may
believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:9-13)
will evermore be CHRIST IN US. Christian doctrine will point us to Him as our
life, and teach us how to live with Him. God would have us beware of any
teaching that waters down this Truth and suggests that Jesus is anywhere else
other than in our very beings by His Holy Spirit – and which diminishes the
ramifications of the life of Christ in us.
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