by Barry Newton
At one time, a home provided sweet refuge from the exaggerated claims of the market place. Then, slowly at first, the printed page combined with greater convenience opened a crack allowing the market place to invade our most private spaces.
Now that technology has destroyed every geographical barrier, the clamor of the marketer’s claims incessantly barrage us wherever we might go. What has been the societal impact? Many would point to more calloused and cynical consumers.
Might religious propaganda evoke a similar form of disillusionment? Web sites, newsletters, sundry media forms and emboldened speakers each confidently proclaim God’s support and blessings. Yet, even the most casual observer can notice that for God to be supporting diametrically opposed religious groups, God’s house would be divided against itself. Must cynicism against all spiritually-related claims be the inevitable result? No.
The existence of groups proclaiming fundamentally opposed teachings, yet each claiming God’s favor is hardly a new situation. While it is true that God provides such basic blessings as rain upon all, the letter of 1 John provided one informative example of winnowing impostors from those with an authentic relationship with God.
In the late first century, John encountered two groups, each claiming to know God, but whose basic teachings and lifestyles were diametrically opposed. Anchored firmly upon the truth of God’s word, John prescribed some simple tests he knew would expose the counterfeit in that specific situation.
“The person who claims, ‘I know him,’ but does not keep his commands is a liar and the truth is not in that person” (1 John 2:4). John’s additional litmus tests, engineered to focus upon divergent behaviors and doctrines, exposed critical differences between those two groups thereby revealing who truly *had been* born of God.
Clearly humanity’s impressive claims of divine support and relationship can be meaningless. While God does bless all people with rain, God knows those who are his. His perspective is the one which matters.
An authentic relationship claim with God requires identifying whether God recognizes someone as having been born of God. Fortunately, God has revealed the basis for his perspective.
The New Testament insists that those who have relied upon Jesus by confessing him and being baptized are those whom God recognizes as being saved through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
They have entered the covenant Jesus provided in grace and they have received its promises: the forgiveness of sins and being claimed as God’s children.
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