Since Coronavirus has been sweeping through our nation and the world in 2020, I thought it would be good for us to look at a deadly virus of another kind—deception—and the best spiritual vaccine we have against it. This “virus” can lead to spiritual derailment, or worse, our leaving the faith altogether. We can come into contact with it through personal disappointment with God, believing bad theology, embracing false teaching, or being influenced by skeptics who try to talk us out of believing in God altogether. The infectious rate from this particular virus has been alarmingly high in recent decades. And this is tragically sad since it does not need to be so.
This spiritual “virus” is precisely what John was dealing with in his first epistle. There had been teachings spreading throughout the early church that Jesus was not God the Son and that God was not His Father.
18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.
22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:18, 19, 22 NIV)
When we look at the crux of this particular antichrist “virus,” we see that it denies two things: (1)that Jesus is the Christ and (2) that God is a Father. It denies this relationship between the Son and the Father, which denies the trinitarian nature of God. Therefore, it denies our relationship with God in Christ.
So, this “virus” attacks the cardiovascular system of the gospel. For, if Jesus is not God the Son, who came from the Father, then we cannot be in God in Christ. If Jesus is just a man like us, then He cannot place us in God because He is outside of God itself. Furthermore, if God is not in relationship within Himself, then He cannot be love (I talked about this here). And if God is not love, then we cannot remain in His love as Jesus remained in His Father’s love (John 15:9-12).
We are forever left with a religion of distance and separation, forever trying to seek out some unknowable deity.
But the truth is, when Jesus died, we died. When He was buried, our sin was buried. When His Father raised Him from the dead, He raised us with Him in heavenly places! We now “participate in the divine nature” (2 Pet.1:4). That’s the good news that bring great joy!
So what is John’s vaccine against deceptive teaching and skepticism? More teaching? Subscribe to all the “watchdog” podcasts? Find out which conspiracy theories are true? Have better arguments than the skeptics?
No. It’s a quite simple antiviral protocol. First, here’s the vaccine:
20 But the Holy One has anointed you and you all know the truth. (1 John 2:20 TPT*)
Then, he gets more specific, starting in verse 26:
26 I’ve written these things about those who are attempting to lead you astray. 27 But the wonderful anointing you have received from God is so much greater than their deception and now lives in you. There’s no need for anyone to keep teaching you. His anointing teaches you all that you need to know, for it will lead you into truth, not a counterfeit. So just as the anointing has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:26-27 TPT*)
Of course, we know from John’s gospel that this “anointing” is Holy Spirit living in us (John 16:13).
This is how we know the truth. When we hear a teaching, our spirit, who is in union with Holy Spirit, will either respond with an “amen” or a check. This is why Jesus told us that His sheep will follow His voice and not follow the voice of a stranger (John 10:4-5).
I know the truth when I hear it because it has the fragrance of Christ on it, it carries His grace and authority. To say it colloquially, “I know in my knower.” And this is because I have trained my spiritual senses through practice to discern between good and evil (Heb.5:14).
How do we inoculate ourselves with Holy Spirit? We do what Jesus did…we remain in His love: “So just as the anointing has taught you, remain in him.”
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:9-10 NIV*)
You may think this sounds too simplistic but it’s not. The problem we have in modern Christianity is that we’ve made the gospel transactional rather than relational. We treat God like an ATM machine, we say a prayer to be saved from hell rather than accept the invitation into His life. Furthermore, we equate Bible information with revelation. But they’re not the same, as God told Moses:
29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deut.29:29 NIV*)
We must know Scripture, first and foremost, but it’s not enough. We may project our own issues into our reading of it, making God in our own image, or it can even be distorted by persuasive teachers who may love the Bible, yet still be wrong in their interpretation. Popular opinion doesn’t make something true. However, as Bill Johnson has said: “A man who has an encounter is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.”
Jesus told us that if we stay in the process with Him, we would know the truth and the truth would make us free (John 8:31-32). I know the truth because I know Christ.
So, we don’t need to be afraid of false teaching “viruses” or be led astray by other voices. We have the best vaccine in the world—the indwelling Spirit of God!